The Association Between Thought Suppression Tasks, Anxiety, and Beta Brain Wave Patterns

Abstract

This study\u27s primary purpose was investigating if anxiety negatively impacts cognitive tasks involving memory, attention, inhibitory control, and reaction time. With anxiety being a natural phenomenon associated with individuals’ daily dysfunctions, the goal was to replicate this hypothesis finding any association between anxiety and brain precise cognitive function in a controlled environment. Also it investigated if there were any identifications of neural underpinnings corresponding with this negative impact. Volunteers were first asked to complete the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T), which is a validated self-report questionnaire used to identify one’s inclination of anxiety. After this, they performed the computerized cognitive task called the Flanker task. Meanwhile, their brain electrical activity was monitored and recorded using an electroencephalogram (EEG) headcap. The Flanker task refers to a series of response inhibition tests that are used to evaluate one\u27s ability to suppress unwanted responses. EEG refers to a test that is used to locate and record electrical brain wave patterns. Results showed individuals who reported high scores of anxiety based on STAI-T also demonstrated slower reaction time to Flanker task trials with distractions. The EEG recordings indicated these individuals had a significant amount of beta wave brain activity, which corresponds with high levels of anxiety and depression. Their beta wave activities were also negatively associated with poor performance on the Flanker task. Utilizing wireless, minimal EEG devices with individuals performing high-stakes tasks would allow monitoring and identifying when one is going into a high anxiety state, which then could prevent potential tragedies

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This paper was published in University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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