Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Social anxiety


Diagnostic features of emotional expressions are differentially distributed across the face. The current study examined whether these diagnostic features are preferentially attended to even when they are irrelevant for the task at hand or when faces appear at different locations in the visual field. To this aim, fearful, happy and neutral faces were presented to healthy individuals in two experiments while measuring eye movements. In Experiment 1, participants had to accomplish an emotion classification, a gender discrimination or a passive viewing task. To differentiate fast, potentially reflexive, eye movements from a more elaborate scanning of faces, stimuli were either presented for 150 or 2000 ms. In Experiment 2, similar faces were presented at different spatial positions to rule out the possibility that eye movements only reflect a general bias for certain visual field locations. In both experiments, participants fixated the eye region much longer than any other region in the face. Furthermore, the eye region was attended to more pronouncedly when fearful or neutral faces were shown whereas more attention was directed toward the mouth of happy facial expressions. Since these results were similar across the other experimental manipulations, they indicate that diagnostic features of emotional expressions are preferentially processed irrespective of task demands and spatial locations. Saliency analyses revealed that a computational model of bottom-up visual attention could not explain these results. Furthermore, as these gaze preferences were evident very early after stimulus onset and occurred even when saccades did not allow for extracting further information from these stimuli, they may reflect a preattentive mechanism that automatically detects relevant facial features in the visual field and facilitates the orientation of attention towards them. This mechanism might crucially depend on amygdala functioning and it is potentially impaired in a number of clinical conditions such as autism or social anxiety disorders.

Concepts: Anxiety, Emotion, Anxiety disorder, Face, Paul Ekman, Fear, Social anxiety, Social anxiety disorder


BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders and is associated with marked impairments. However, a small proportion of individuals with SAD seek and receive treatment. Internet-administrated cognitive behavior therapy (iCBT) has been found to be an effective treatment for SAD. This trial will be the first Internet-delivered guided self-help intervention for SAD in Romania. METHODS: Participants with social anxiety disorder (N = 96) will be recruited via newspapers, online banners and Facebook. Participants will be randomized to either: a) an active treatment, or b) a waiting list control group.The treatment will have a guided iCBT format and will last for nine weeks. Self-report questionnaires on social phobia, anxiety, depression, treatment credibility and irrational thinking will be used. All assessments will be collected pre, post and at follow-up (six months after intervention). Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale – Self-Report version (LSAS-SR) will be the primary outcome measure and will be administrated on a weekly basis in both conditions. DISCUSSION: The present randomized controlled trial investigates the efficacy of an Internet-administered intervention in reducing social anxiety symptoms in a culture where this form of treatment has not been tested. This trial will add to the body of knowledge on the efficacy of iCBT, and the results might lead to an increase of the accessibility of evidence-based psychological treatment in Romania.Trial NCT01557894.

Concepts: Cognitive behavioral therapy, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Alprazolam, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder


Individuals differ in their level of general anxiety as well as in their level of anxiety towards specific activities, such as mathematics and spatial tasks. Both specific anxieties correlate moderately with general anxiety, but the aetiology of their association remains unexplored. Moreover, the factor structure of spatial anxiety is to date unknown. The present study investigated the factor structure of spatial anxiety, its aetiology, and the origins of its association with general and mathematics anxiety in a sample of 1,464 19-21-year-old twin pairs from the UK representative Twins Early Development Study. Participants reported their general, mathematics and spatial anxiety as part of an online battery of tests. We found that spatial anxiety is a multifactorial construct, including two components: navigation anxiety and rotation/visualization anxiety. All anxiety measures were moderately heritable (30% to 41%), and non-shared environmental factors explained the remaining variance. Multivariate genetic analysis showed that, although some genetic and environmental factors contributed to all anxiety measures, a substantial portion of genetic and non-shared environmental influences were specific to each anxiety construct. This suggests that anxiety is a multifactorial construct phenotypically and aetiologically, highlighting the importance of studying anxiety within specific contexts.

Concepts: Anxiety, Time, Genetics, Twins, Heredity, Social anxiety, Social anxiety disorder


A large field study of children in first and second grade explored how parents' anxiety about math relates to their children’s math achievement. The goal of the study was to better understand why some students perform worse in math than others. We tested whether parents' math anxiety predicts their children’s math achievement across the school year. We found that when parents are more math anxious, their children learn significantly less math over the school year and have more math anxiety by the school year’s end-but only if math-anxious parents report providing frequent help with math homework. Notably, when parents reported helping with math homework less often, children’s math achievement and attitudes were not related to parents' math anxiety. Parents' math anxiety did not predict children’s reading achievement, which suggests that the effects of parents' math anxiety are specific to children’s math achievement. These findings provide evidence of a mechanism for intergenerational transmission of low math achievement and high math anxiety.

Concepts: Anxiety, Mathematics, Report, High school, Study skills, Social anxiety


Severe social withdrawal (called hikikomori, and defined as isolation lasting more than six months and not due to an apparent mental disorder) has drawn increasing public attention in Japan. It is unclear whether hikikomori is merely a symptom or syndrome of social withdrawal.

Concepts: Mental disorder, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder, Agoraphobia


Musical performance anxiety (MPA) refers to persistent and distressing apprehension associated with performing to an audience. Our objective was to assess the presence of MPA and other psychopathologies in musicians and find correlations between socio-demographic and clinical variables.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Performance, Anxiety disorder, Social anxiety, Music, Performing arts, Audience


The monitoring of patients with an anxiety disorder can benefit from Routine Outcome Monitoring (ROM). As anxiety disorders differ in phenomenology, several anxiety questionnaires are included in ROM: Brief Scale for Anxiety (BSA), PADUA Inventory Revised (PI-R), Panic Appraisal Inventory (PAI), Penn State Worry Questionnaire (PSWQ), Worry Domains Questionnaire (WDQ), Social Interaction, Anxiety Scale (SIAS), Social Phobia Scale (SPS), and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R). We aimed to generate reference values for both ‘healthy’ and ‘clinically anxious’ populations for these anxiety questionnaires.

Concepts: Anxiety, Sociology, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Panic attack


Numerous studies have shown an exacerbation of attentional bias towards threat in anxiety states. However, the cognitive mechanisms responsible for these attentional biases remain largely unknown. Further, the authors outline the need to consider the nature of the attentional processes in operation (hypervigilance, avoidance, or disengagement). We adapted a dot-probe paradigm to record behavioral and electrophysiological responses in 26 participants reporting high or low fear of evaluation, a major component of social anxiety. Pairs of faces including a neutral and an emotional face (displaying anger, fear, disgust, or happiness) were presented during 200ms and then replaced by a neutral target to discriminate. Results show that anxious participants were characterized by an increased P1 in response to pairs of faces, irrespective of the emotional expression included in the pair. They also showed an increased P2 in response to angry-neutral pairs selectively. Finally, in anxious participants, the P1 response to targets was enhanced when replacing emotional faces, whereas non-anxious subjects showed no difference between the two conditions. These results indicate an early hypervigilance to face stimuli in social anxiety, coupled with difficulty in disengaging from threat and sustained attention to emotional stimuli. They are discussed within the framework of current models of anxiety and psychopathology.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Anxiety disorder, Paul Ekman, Fear, Social anxiety, Fight-or-flight response, Bias


Cognitive models of social anxiety [Clark and Wells, Social phobia: Diagnosis, assessment, and treatment, Guilford Press, New York, 1995], diagnostic criteria and studies on adult samples suggest that both an overestimation of bodily anxiety symptoms and psychophysiological abnormalities play an important role in social anxiety. To date, less is known about such a perception bias and physiological characteristics in children and adolescents with social anxiety. We performed a systematic review of the literature in the electronic databases Medline, PsycINFO, and PSYNDEX. Additional studies were identified by hand search using the ancestry approach. We identified 1,461 studies, screened their titles and abstracts, viewed 94 papers, and included 28 of these. Study samples were heterogeneous and consisted of socially phobic, high socially anxious, shy and test anxious children and adolescents. Regarding a biased perception, most studies in the review suggest that bodily symptoms of anxiety were overestimated by children and adolescents across the social anxiety spectrum when compared with control groups. An elevated psychophysiological reactivity to social stress was present in samples of high social anxiety, shyness, and test anxiety. In clinical samples with social phobia, by contrast, no differences or an even lower physiological responding compared with healthy control groups were reported. In addition, some evidence for a chronic psychophysiological hyperarousal was found across all sample types. The results are discussed with regard to current models of social anxiety, psychophysiological theories, and treatment implications.

Concepts: Anxiety, Scientific method, Psychology, Anxiety disorder, Fear, Social anxiety, Fight-or-flight response, Panic attack


Many patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD) experience inadequate symptom relief from available treatments. Ketamine is a potent N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist with a potentially novel mechanism of action for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Therefore, we conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover trial in 18 adults with DSM-5 SAD and compared the effects between intravenous ketamine (0.5 mg/kg over 40 min) and placebo (normal saline) on social phobia symptoms. Ketamine and placebo infusions were administered in a random order with a 28-day washout period between infusions. Ratings of anxiety were assessed 3-hours post-infusion and followed for 14 days. We used linear mixed models to assess the impact of ketamine and placebo on anxiety symptoms. Outcomes were blinded ratings on the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS) and self-reported anxiety on a visual analog scale (VAS-Anxiety). We also used the Wilcoxon signed-rank test to compare the proportion of treatment responders. Based on prior studies, we defined response as a greater than 35% LSAS reduction and 50% VAS-Anxiety reduction. We found ketamine resulted in a significantly greater reduction in anxiety relative to placebo on the LSAS (Time*Treatment: F9,115=2.6, p=0.01) but not the VAS-Anxiety (Time*Treatment: F10,141=0.4, p=0.95). Participants were significantly more likely to exhibit a treatment response after ketamine infusion relative to placebo in the first two weeks following infusion measured on the LSAS (33.33% response ketamine vs 0% response placebo, Wilcoxon signed-rank test z=2.24, p=0.025) and VAS (88.89% response ketamine vs 52.94% response placebo, Wilcoxon signed-rank test z=2.12, p=0.034). In conclusion, this proof-of-concept trial provides initial evidence that ketamine may be effective in reducing anxiety. Identifier: NCT02083926Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 29 August 2017. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.194.

Concepts: Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Alprazolam, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder, Agoraphobia