The Prefrontal Theta Activity During Thought Suppression Compared with Thought Free Predicts Lower Working Memory and Higher Worry Symptoms and Rumination in High Trait Anxiety
Salahadin Lotfi1, Maryam Ayazi1, Ken Bennette1, Lukas Dommer1, Abel Mathew1, Christine Larson1, Hanjoo Lee1; 1University of Wisconsin-Milwuakee
Anxiety is often associated with impaired cognitive function and an excessive allocation of attentional resources toward threat-related stimuli. This dysfunctional allocation allows unnecessary threat-related information to enter working memory (WM), maintaining irrelevant anxious cognitions and consuming cognitive resources which in turn interferes with ongoing behavior. Recent evidence shows cognitive control (CC) is a critical component of WM capacity as well of suppression of unwanted thoughts. Strong CC enables individuals to filter out irrelevant information during cognitive tasks. EEG studies have also shown that the increased prefrontal theta (PFT) is associated with occupied WM. The main aim of this study is to investigate the association between PFT with WM and the suppression of unwanted thought in individuals with high trait anxiety. EEG recordings and cognitive tasks were collected from a sample of undergraduate students (N=35) who scored 44 or above on the STAI-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Results revealed a significant negative correlation between PFT during suppression of unwanted thoughts compared with thought free phase with WM capacity (r= -0.383). Results also indicate a significant positive correlation between PFT during suppression of unwanted thoughts compared with thought free with two measures of worry symptoms and rumination (r=0.388 & 0.427). Collectively, these data suggest that the increased activity of PFT during thought suppression may be neural markers predicting a failed attempt of filtering unwanted thought associated with low working memory performance in trait anxious individuals, further supporting the notion that anxiety is associated with poor WM abilities and impaired CC of intrusive thoughts.
Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory