How anxiety transforms human cognition: an Affective Neuroscience perspective

01 October 2008 → 30 September 2012
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Clinical and counseling psychology
    • Other psychology and cognitive sciences
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Psychiatry and psychotherapy
    • Psychiatry and psychotherapy
    • Nursing
    • Other paramedical sciences
    • Psychiatry and psychotherapy
Project description

Anxiety, a state of apprehension or fear, may provoke cognitive or behavioural disorders and eventually lead to serious medical illnesses. The high prevalence of anxiety disorders in our society sharply contrasts with the lack of clear factual knowledge about the corresponding brain mechanisms at the origin of this profound change in the appraisal of the environment. Little is known about how the psychopathological state of anxiety ultimately turns to a medical condition. The core of this proposal is to gain insight in the neural underpinnings of anxiety and disorders related to anxiety using modern human brain-imaging such as scalp EEG and fMRI. I propose to enlighten how anxiety transforms and shapes human cognition and what the neural correlates and time-course of this modulatory effect are. The primary innovation of this project is the systematic use scalp EEG and fMRI in human participants to better understand the neural mechanisms by which anxiety profoundly influences specific cognitive functions, in particular selective attention and decision-making. The goal of this proposal is to precisely determine the exact timing (using scalp EEG), location, size and extent (using fMRI) of anxiety-related modulations on selective attention and decision-making in the human brain. Here I propose to focus on these two specific processes, because they are likely to reveal selective effects of anxiety on human cognition and can thus serve as powerful models to better figure out how anxiety operates in the human brain. Another important aspect of this project is the fact I envision to help bridge the gap in Health Psychology between fundamental research and clinical practice by proposing alternative revalidation strategies for human adult subjects affected by anxiety-related disorders, which could directly exploit the neuro-scientific discoveries generated in this scientific project.