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EEG theta/beta ratio as a potential biomarker for attentional control and resilience against deleterious effects of stress on attention.

Authors
  • Putman, Peter
  • Verkuil, Bart
  • Arias-Garcia, Elsa
  • Pantazi, Ioanna
  • van Schie, Charlotte
Type
Published Article
Journal
Cognitive, affective & behavioral neuroscience
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2014
Volume
14
Issue
2
Pages
782–791
Identifiers
DOI: 10.3758/s13415-013-0238-7
PMID: 24379166
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Anxious stress compromises cognitive executive performance. This occurs, for instance, in cognitive performance anxiety (CPA), in which anxiety about one's cognitive performance causes that performance to actually deteriorate (e.g., test anxiety). This is thought to result from a prefrontal cortically (PFC) mediated failure of top-down attentional control over stress-induced automatic processing of threat-related information. In addition, stress-induced increased catecholamine influx into the PFC may directly compromise attentional function. Previous research has suggested that the ratio between resting state electroencephalographic (EEG) low- and high-frequency power (the theta/beta ratio) is related to trait attentional control, which might moderate these effects of stress on attentional function. The goals of the present study were to test the novel prediction that theta/beta ratio moderates the deleterious effects of CPA-like anxious stress on state attentional control and to replicate a previous finding that the theta/beta ratio is related to self-reported trait attentional control. After recording of baseline frontal EEG signals, 77 participants performed a stress induction or a control procedure. Trait attentional control was assessed with the Attentional Control Scale, whereas stress-induced changes in attentional control and anxiety were measured with self-report visual analogue scales. The hypothesized moderating influence of theta/beta ratio on the effects of stress on state attentional control was confirmed. Theta/beta ratio explained 28% of the variance in stress-induced deterioration of self-reported attentional control. The negative relationship between theta/beta ratio and trait attentional control was replicated (r = -.33). The theta/beta ratio reflects, likely prefrontally mediated, attentional control, and should be a useful biomarker for the study of CPA and other anxiety-cognition interactions.

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