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Klahn, Anna Luisa; Klinkenberg, Isabelle A. G.; Notzon, Swantje; Arolt, Volker; Pantev, Christo; Zwanzger, Peter and Junghöfer, Markus (2016): Prepare for scare-Impact of threat predictability on affective visual processing in spider phobia. In: Behavioural Brain Research, Vol. 307: pp. 84-91

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The visual processing of emotional faces is influenced by individual's level of stress and anxiety. Valence unspecific affective processing is expected to be influenced by predictability of threat. Using a design of phasic fear (predictable threat), sustained anxiety (unpredictable threat) and safety (no threat), we investigated the magnetoencephalographic correlates and temporal dynamics of emotional face processing in a sample of phobic patients. Compared to non-anxious controls, phobic individuals revealed decreased parietal emotional attention processes during affective processing at mid-latency and late processing stages. While control subjects showed increasing parietal processing of the facial stimuli in line with decreasing threat predictability, phobic subjects revealed the opposite pattern. Decreasing threat predictability also led to increasing neural activity in the orbitofrontal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex at mid-latency stages. Additionally, unpredictability of threat lead to higher subjective discomfort compared to predictability of threat and no threat safety condition. Our findings indicate that visual processing of emotional information is influenced by both stress induction and pathologic anxiety. (C) 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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