The neural correlates of cognitive effort in anxiety: effects on processing efficiency.
Ansari TL., Derakshan N.
We investigated the neural correlates of cognitive effort/pre-target preparation (Contingent Negative Variation activity; CNV) in anxiety using a mixed antisaccade task that manipulated the interval between offset of instructional cue and onset of target (CTI). According to attentional control theory (Eysenck et al., 2007) we predicted that anxiety should result in increased levels of compensatory effort, as indicated by greater frontal CNV, to maintain comparable levels of performance under competing task demands. Our results showed that anxiety resulted in faster antisaccade latencies during medium compared with short and long CTIs. Accordingly, high-anxious individuals compared with low-anxious individuals showed greater levels of CNV activity at frontal sites during medium CTI suggesting that they exerted greater cognitive effort and invested more attentional resources in preparation for the task goal. Our results are the first to demonstrate the neural correlates of processing efficiency and compensatory effort in anxiety and are discussed within the framework of attentional control theory.