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Poster D141

Exploring how Generalized Anxiety Disorder impacts the latent processes and neural correlates underlying approach-avoidance conflict decision-making

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Sonja Chu1 (, Lisa Crocco1, Cendri Hutcherson1, Vina Goghari1, Rutsuko Ito1, Andy Lee1,2; 1University of Toronto, 2Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest Centre

The ability to arbitrate approach-avoidance (AA) conflict, a cognitive state elicited by simultaneous reward and punishment, is critical for adaptive decision-making. Across rodent and human models, AA conflict has been associated with anxiety and is supported by a network of brain regions including the medial temporal lobe (MTL), striatum, and prefrontal cortex (PFC). This work, however, is limited in two respects. (1) Human models employing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) have historically relied on analyses that fail to disentangle how neural activity relates to latent decision-making characteristics underlying AA conflict. (2) There has been limited work stressing the mechanisms underlying AA conflict by testing it in samples with anxiety psychopathology, despite anxiety’s integral role in AA conflict in healthy and clinical populations. To address these limitations, individuals with GAD and healthy controls completed an AA conflict task while undergoing fMRI. Application of the Hierarchical Drift Diffusion Model, a computational modelling approach, indicated that the GAD group engaged in faster evidence generation to avoiding conflict. The GAD group showed divergent patterns of neural recruitment compared to controls in the MTL, striatum, and PFC during evidence generation, response caution, inhibition, and optimization of cognitive processing. Our findings spotlight the differing contributions of the PFC and MTL to AA conflict evidence generation and regulation, and provide novel evidence that excessive anxiety impairs engagement with the decision-making process at a computational and neural level.

Topic Area: THINKING: Decision making


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April 13–16  |  2024