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Anxiety impairs cognition. The exact neural mechanisms involved remain somewhat unclear, however. To address this ambiguity, I will present a line of work delineating associations between anxiety and neurophysiological measures of cognitive control-related error monitoring. Results from these studies demonstrate that anxiety, and worry, in particular, seems to interfere with processes supporting active goal maintenance thereby forcing the cognitive system to compensate by increasing processes dedicated to transient reactivation of task goals on an as-needed basis when salient events (i.e., errors) occur. A number of variations on this theme have also emerged.  Specifically, developmental and sex/gender differences in this association point to the potential role of gonadal hormones in anxiety’s effects on cognitive control function. Findings will be discussed in the context of contemporary theories of anxiety and cognition (i.e., Attentional Control Theory), error monitoring (i.e., Conflict Monitoring Theory) and cognitive control (i.e., Dual Mechanisms). Finally, implications for targeted cognitive and psychological interventions will be addressed.

Short Bio:

Jason Moser, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and Director of the Clinical Psychophysiology Lab at Michigan State University. He received his bachelor’s of arts degree from the Pennsylvania State University in 2001, and his master’s of arts and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 2006 and 2009, respectively. Prior to joining the faculty at Michigan State, he spent 1-year at the Boston Veterans Affairs Hospital completing a clinical internship where he worked with military veterans in the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. He specializes in the study of self-regulation deficits in anxiety and exposure-based behavioral therapies for anxiety disorders.