Electrophysiological correlates of threat processing in spider phobics

Psychophysiology. 2005 Sep;42(5):520-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2005.00315.x.


The electrocortical correlates of the processing of feared/fear-relevant and neutral stimuli were investigated in a pictorial emotional Stroop paradigm with spider phobic, social phobic, and nonphobic subjects. Subjects identified either the color of red or blue pictures of spiders, birds, or flowers (emotional Stroop task) or the object itself (identification task) by pressing different buttons. No emotional Stroop interference was found for spider phobic subjects when identifying the color of spiders as opposed to neutral stimuli. However, in the object identification task, spider phobic subjects identified spiders significantly faster than birds or flowers. Parietal P300 and P400 amplitudes were enhanced independent of task in spider phobic but not in nonphobic subjects when viewing pictures of spiders, which is consistent with previous studies showing that highly unpleasant and arousing pictures affect parietal late positive potentials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Attention / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Event-Related Potentials, P300
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Spiders*