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Poster A108

Anxiety and Depression Affect Frontal Theta Power in Response to Threatening Stimuli

Poster Session A - Saturday, April 13, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Sarah Poirier1, Riley McHugh2, Brynn Castellani3, Brigid Baldwin4, Audrey Weil5; 1Washington College

Frontal midline theta (FMT) oscillations (4-8Hz) play a key role in cognitive control and emotional processing through signaling adaptive changes in behavior in response to error or uncertainty. Anxious and depressed individuals tend to display suboptimal cognitive control, particularly in the face of threatening stimuli due to these individuals allocating more attentional resources towards threatening stimuli. This attentional threat bias comes at the cost of attending to the task at hand, resulting in poorer performance. However, the role of FMT in attentional threat bias and how it might be impacted by anxiety and depression, is yet unstudied. To clarify the impact of threatening stimuli on attention for trait anxious and depressed individuals, we recorded neural oscillatory data using a 32-channel EEG net while participants completed an emotional go/no-go task with happy, neutral, and fearful faces. We found that fearful faces produced lower accuracy and reaction times across all participants. High anxiety and high depression participants showed a trend where fear no-go trials had greater FMT compared to happy or neutral no-go trials. However, this FMT power was correlated with worse performance, indicated by lower accuracy and higher reaction time – a pattern not present for happy or neutral stimuli, nor for low anxiety or low depression participants. Rather, low depression participants showed more central theta during fear no-go trials, which correlated with better performance. Our data suggest that anxiety and depression alter the adaptive role of FMT in cognitive control tasks when faced with threatening stimuli.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Monitoring & inhibitory control


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April 13–16  |  2024