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Anxiety modulates an attentional blink to fearful and neutral faces
Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, 33-34
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Selective attention involves the differential processing of different stimuli, and has wide spread psychological and neural consequences. Attentional mechanisms act to prioritise information on the basis of both “bottom-up” stimulus saliency and “top down”, behavioural relevance. Another source of bias may come from the influence of emotion states, for example fear and anxiety. The attentional blink (AB) paradigm is thought to measure the time course of attention to a particular target. Participants are required to report the identities of 2 targets presented within a stream of distractors. Performance on the 2nd target (T2) is markedly impaired if it appears within 500ms of the 1st (T1). Here we use neutral and fearful T1 faces and examined the differential effects of emotion expressions on attention to the 2nd neutral target (T2), in both a behavioural study and a version of the task adapted for fMRI. Behaviourally we found the usual recovery of T2 performance as the SOA between T1 & T2 increased, but no effect of T1 expression or interaction. Dividing the sample into low and high anxiety groups, however, revealed an interaction between anxiety and T1 expression on T2 performance, with low anxious individuals showing a smaller blink following a fearful T1 and high anxious individuals showing the reverse effect. These data are consistent with the notion that the competitive advantage for threat-related stimuli can be modulated by emotion state. The neural basis of differential attentional effects of processing neutral and fearful stimuli is examined.