Reduced neural differentiation of rewards and punishment during passive avoidance learning in adolescents with generalized anxiety disorder

Johannah Bashford-Largo, Joseph Aloi, Ru Zhang, Sahil Bajaj, Erin Carollo, Jaimie Elowsky, Amanda Schwartz, Matthew Dobbertin, Robert James R. Blair, Karina S. Blair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: It has been proposed that individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) show dysfunctional computations related to approach-avoidance decision-making. However, few studies have examined the neural basis of this impairment, particularly in adolescents with GAD. The goal of the current study was to address this gap in the literature. Method: The study involved 51 adolescents with GAD and 51 typically developing (TD) comparison individuals matched on age (16.10 and 15.75 respective means), gender (30 F/21 M and 24 F/27 M), and IQ (103.20 and 103.18 respective means). Participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging during a passive avoidance task. Results: We found a significant Group-by-Reinforcement interaction within reward-related brain regions including the caudate, putamen, mid cingulate/paracentral lobule, and superior and middle frontal gyrus. TD adolescents showed a greater differential response to reward versus punishment feedback within these regions relative to adolescents with GAD. In particular, this reflected reduced responses to rewards in the adolescents with GAD. There were no group differences in neural responses when making approach/avoidance responses. Conclusion: The results of this study suggest reduced differential responsiveness to reinforcement as a component of the pathophysiology seen in adolescents with GAD. This dysfunction likely underpins decision-making impairments that may exacerbate the participants' worry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)794-803
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Volume38
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • GAD
  • anxiety
  • decision-making
  • fMRI
  • neuroimaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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