Poster Session E, Monday, March 25, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
Trait and State Anxiety Modulate Early (but not late) Fear Processing
Melissa A. Meynadasy1, Kevin J. Clancy1, Wen Li1; 1Florida State University
Fear perception is a multi-stage process, involving four key operations in the order of sensory-based fear/non-fear categorization (~100ms), fear detection (~300ms), fear valuation (400-500ms), and conscious awareness of fear (500-600ms). Fear perception is also known to be highly variable across individuals, especially in relation to trait and state anxiety. Therefore, the current study (N = 45) analyzed a dataset involving behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) responses to faces containing 7 parametrically varied fear intensities to examine how individual differences in trait and state anxiety would modulate each of these key operations in fear perception. Behaviorally, state anxiety closely correlated with fear detection rates at low-to-peri-threshold levels (2%-27%, r’s=.29-.46) but not at supra-threshold levels (33%-45%). Among the four operations, trait (social) anxiety correlated with the initial fear/non-fear categorization (r=-.30) in that the quadratic pattern of maximal P1 responses to prototype levels (neutral/fear faces) and minimal responses to boundary (peri-threshold) levels was evident only in the low-trait-anxiety group, in contrast to the high-trait-anxiety group that exhibited a linear pattern to prototype and boundary levels indicating a lack of response suppression to ambiguous fearful faces in anxious individuals. The operation of fear detection was found to marginally correlate with state anxiety (r=.29) in that the sigmoid function of P3 responses across the fear levels was present in the high- but not the low-trait-anxiety group, suggesting that state anxiety facilitates early, unconscious fear detection. Finally, no correlations were observed between the two later operations and anxiety, suggesting equivalent higher-order fear processing across these individuals.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotional responding