Cortical neurophysiology of anticipatory anxiety: an investigation utilizing steady state probe topography (SSPT)

The precise role of the cortex in human anxiety is not well characterised. Previous imaging research among healthy controls has reported alterations in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) within the prefrontal and temporal cortices during periods of anxious anticipation; however, the temporal dynamics of this activity has yet to be examined in detail. The present study examined cortical Steady State Probe Topography (SSPT) changes associated with anticipatory anxiety (AA), allowing examination of the temporal continuity and the excitatory or inhibitory nature of AA activations. We recorded Steady State Visually Evoked Potentials (SSVEPs) at 64 scalp locations, skin conductance, and self reported anxiety among 26 right-handed males while relaxed and during the anticipation of an electric shock. Relative to the baseline condition, the AA condition was associated with significantly higher levels of self-reported anxiety and increased phasic skin conductance levels. Across the seven second imaging window, AA was associated with increased SSVEP latency within medial anterior frontal, left dorsolateral prefrontal and bilateral temporal regions. In contrast, increased SSVEP amplitude and decreased SSVEP latency were observed within occipital regions. The observed SSVEP latency increases within frontal and temporal cortical regions are suggestive of increased localised inhibitory processes within regions reciprocally connected to subcortical limbic structures. Occipital SSVEP latency decreases are suggestive of increased excitatory activity. SSVEP amplitude increases within occipital regions may be associated with an attentional shift from external to internal environment. The current findings provide further support for the involvement of frontal, anterior temporal, and occipital cortical regions during anticipatory anxiety, and suggest that both excitatory and inhibitory processes are associated with AA alterations.
© 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Anticipatory anxiety; Steady state probe topography; SSPT; BOLD; Electrophysiology; Electric shock; Healthy human participants
Cortical neurophysiology of anticipatory anxiety an investigation utilizing steady state probe topography

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