The influence of emotional stimuli on attention orienting and inhibitory control in pediatric anxiety

Mueller, Sven, Hardin, Michael, Mogg, Karin, Benson, Valerie orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-0351-4563, Bradley, Brendan P., Reinholdt-Dunne, Marie Louise, Liversedge, Simon Paul orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8579-8546, Pine, Daniel and Ernst, Monique (2012) The influence of emotional stimuli on attention orienting and inhibitory control in pediatric anxiety. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53 (8). pp. 856-863. ISSN 0021-9630

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Background:?Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent in children and adolescents, and are associated with aberrant emotion-related attention orienting and inhibitory control. While recent studies conducted with high-trait anxious adults have employed novel emotion-modified antisaccade tasks to examine the influence of emotional information on orienting and inhibition, similar studies have yet to be conducted in youths.<br/><br/>Methods:?Participants were 22 children/adolescents diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and 22 age-matched healthy comparison youths. Participants completed an emotion-modified antisaccade task that was similar to those used in studies of high-trait anxious adults. This task probed the influence of abruptly appearing neutral, happy, angry, or fear stimuli on orienting (prosaccade) or inhibitory (antisaccade) responses.<br/><br/>Results:?Anxious compared to healthy children showed facilitated orienting toward angry stimuli. With respect to inhibitory processes, threat-related information improved antisaccade accuracy in healthy but not anxious youth. These findings were not linked to individual levels of reported anxiety or specific anxiety disorders.<br/><br/>Conclusions:?Findings suggest that anxious relative to healthy children manifest enhanced orienting toward threat-related stimuli. In addition, the current findings suggest that threat may modulate inhibitory control during adolescent development.

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