Worry is a key feature of anxiety disorders and is associated with biased attention with respect to threat and safety signals. The current study evaluated whether worry affects attentional processes during an emotional conditioning paradigm using event-related potentials. Participants high (n = 27) and low (n = 28) in worry completed an emotional S1-S2 task to evaluate fear acquisition, and a subsequent neutral S1-S2 task to evaluate extinction. The stimulus-preceding negativity (SPN) was used to evaluate preparatory resources for subsequent images, and the late positive potential (LPP) was used to evaluate emotional processing of threatening and neutral images. Results indicated that all participants displayed a more negative SPN for threatening images during the learning block, although across blocks worriers' SPN amplitude was not different for threat and safety cues. Additionally, high worriers displayed increased LPP for neutral images compared to low worriers. Results suggest that examining attentional processes during conditioning paradigms may increase our understanding of how worry affects fear learning.
- Late positive potential
- Stimulus-preceding negativity