Biased Saccadic Responses to Emotional Stimuli in Anxiety: An Antisaccade Study.
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Research suggests that anxiety is maintained by an attentional bias to threat, and a growing base of evidence suggests that anxiety may additionally be associated with the deficient attentional processing of positive stimuli. The present study sought to examine whether such anxiety-linked attentional biases were associated with either stimulus driven or attentional control mechanisms of attentional selectivity. High and low trait anxious participants completed an emotional variant of an antisaccade task, in which they were required to prosaccade towards, or antisaccade away from a positive, neutral or threat stimulus, while eye movements were recorded. While low anxious participants were found to be slower to saccade in response to positive stimuli, irrespectively of whether a pro- or antisaccade was required, such a bias was absent in high anxious individuals. Analysis of erroneous antisaccades further revealed at trend level, that anxiety was associated with reduced peak velocity in response to threat. The findings suggest that anxiety is associated with the aberrant processing of positive stimuli, and greater compensatory efforts in the inhibition of threat. The findings further highlight the relevance of considering saccade peak velocity in the assessment of anxiety-linked attentional processing.
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