Anxiety promotes memory for mood-congruent faces but does not alter loss aversion

Caroline J. Charpentier, Chandni Hindocha, Jonathan P. Roiser, Oliver J. Robinson
2016 Scientific Reports  
Pathological anxiety is associated with disrupted cognitive processing, including working memory and decision-making. In healthy individuals, experimentally-induced state anxiety or high trait anxiety often results in the deployment of adaptive harm-avoidant behaviours. However, how these processes affect cognition is largely unknown. To investigate this question, we implemented a translational within-subjects anxiety induction, threat of shock, in healthy participants reporting a wide range of
more » ... trait anxiety scores. Participants completed a gambling task, embedded within an emotional working memory task, with some blocks under unpredictable threat and others safe from shock. Relative to the safe condition, threat of shock improved recall of threat-congruent (fearful) face location, especially in highly trait anxious participants. This suggests that threat boosts working memory for mood-congruent stimuli in vulnerable individuals, mirroring memory biases in clinical anxiety. By contrast, Bayesian analysis indicated that gambling decisions were better explained by models that did not include threat or treat anxiety, suggesting that: (i) higher-level executive functions are robust to these anxiety manipulations; and (ii) decreased risk-taking may be specific to pathological anxiety. These findings provide insight into the complex interactions between trait anxiety, acute state anxiety and cognition, and may help understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying adaptive anxiety.
doi:10.1038/srep24746 pmid:27098489 pmcid:PMC4838853 fatcat:p363prm63bb2rfzxj353u63aee