Cognitive conflict adaptation in generalized anxiety disorder

Biol Psychol. 2013 Oct;94(2):408-18. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.08.006. Epub 2013 Sep 1.


Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) display poor emotional conflict adaptation, a cognitive control process requiring the adjustment of performance based on previous-trial conflict. It is unclear whether GAD-related conflict adaptation difficulties are present during tasks without emotionally-salient stimuli. We examined conflict adaptation using the N2 component of the event-related potential (ERP) and behavioral responses on a Flanker task from 35 individuals with GAD and 35 controls. Groups did not differ on conflict adaptation accuracy; individuals with GAD also displayed intact RT conflict adaptation. In contrast, individuals with GAD showed decreased amplitude N2 principal component for conflict adaptation. Correlations showed increased anxiety and depressive symptoms were associated with longer RT conflict adaptation effects and lower ERP amplitudes, but not when separated by group. We conclude that individuals with GAD show reduced conflict-related component processes that may be influenced by compensatory activity, even in the absence of emotionally-salient stimuli.

Keywords: Anterior cingulate (ACC); Anxiety; Cognitive control; Conflict adaptation; Event-related potential; Generalized anxiety disorder; N2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Young Adult