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The neural basis of improved cognitive performance by threat of shock

Torrisi, S; Robinson, O; O'Connell, K; Davis, A; Balderston, N; Ernst, M; Grillon, C; (2016) The neural basis of improved cognitive performance by threat of shock. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience , 11 (11) pp. 1677-1686. 10.1093/scan/nsw088. Green open access

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Abstract

Anxiety can have both detrimental and facilitatory cognitive effects. This study investigates the neural substrates of a replicated facilitatory effect of anxiety on sustained attention and response inhibition. This effect consisted of improved performance on the Sustained Attention to Response Task (a Go–NoGo task consisting of 91% Go and 9% NoGo trials) in threat (unpredictable electrical shock) vs safe (no shock) conditions. This study uses the same experimental design with fMRI and relies on an event-related analysis of BOLD signal changes. Findings reveal that threat-related cognitive facilitation (improved NoGo accuracy) is associated with greater activation of a right-lateralized frontoparietal group of regions previously implicated in sustained attention and response inhibition. Moreover, these same regions show decreased activation in the Go trials preceding NoGo errors. During NoGo trials, striatal activity is also greater in the threat vs safe condition, consistent with the notion of enhanced inhibitory processing under threat. These findings identify potential mechanisms by which threat of unpredictable shock can facilitate distinct cognitive functions. A greater understanding of the complex interaction of the anxious state and cognitive processes may have critical clinical implications.

Type: Article
Title: The neural basis of improved cognitive performance by threat of shock
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsw088
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsw088
Language: English
Additional information: Published by Oxford University Press 2016. This work is written by US Government employees and is in the public domain in the United States.
Keywords: Sustained attention; response inhibition; Go/NoGo; threat of shock; fMRI
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1503260
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