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Trait anxiety and neural efficiency of abstract reasoning: An fMRI investigation

Modi, Shilpi, Kumar, Mukesh, Nara, Sanjeev, Kumar, Pawan, Khushu, Subash
Journal of biosciences 2018 v.43 no.5 pp. 877-886
anxiety, blood, gender, head, magnetic resonance imaging, memory, mental depression, neurophysiology, prefrontal cortex, thalamus
Worries preoccupy the working memory capacity in anxious individuals, thereby affecting their performance during tasks that require efficient attention regulation. According to the attentional control theory (ACT), trait anxiety affects the processing efficiency, i.e. the effort required for task performance, more than the accuracy of task performance. We investigated the relation between trait anxiety and neural response for a reasoning task in healthy subjects. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was carried out on 22 healthy participants and blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast estimates were extracted from a priori regions of interest (ROIs) that were earlier implicated in reasoning (i.e., bilaterally caudate head, globus pallidus, thalamus, prefrontal cortex [rostral, dorsal and ventral regions], inferior parietal lobule and middle occipital gyrus). Controlling for the effects of age, gender, state anxiety and depressive symptoms, for equivalent levels of task performance, trait anxiety of the participants was found to be associated with an increase in task related BOLD activation in right globus pallidus, left thalamus and left middle occipital gyrus. Our results suggest a reduced processing efficiency for reasoning in high trait anxiety subjects and provides important brain–behaviour relationships with respect to sub-clinical anxiety.