Electrocortical evidence for vigilance-avoidance in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Psychophysiology. 2011 Jun;48(6):842-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2010.01149.x. Epub 2010 Nov 12.


Both exaggerated and attenuated responses to emotional stimuli have been documented in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Event-related potentials are well-suited for examining the time-course of neural activity during emotional processing; early components (e.g., the P1) appear to index relatively automatic attention to emotional stimuli, whereas later positivities (e.g., the late positive potential or LPP) index dynamic allocation of attention to emotional stimuli. Twenty-one individuals with GAD and 25 healthy controls (HC) passively viewed emotional and neutral images while ERPs were recorded. An enhanced P1 for unpleasant compared to neutral images was larger in GAD. In addition, the increased LPP to unpleasant compared to neutral images was diminished in the GAD group. These data provide evidence for early hypervigilance for emotional stimuli, followed by failure to engage in elaborative processing, in GAD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Emotions
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation