ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 7, Issue 3, 311-342, 2016
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Free Article The neurobiology of dispositional negativity and attentional biases to threat: Implications for understanding anxiety disorders in adults and youth

  Alexander Shackman - University of Maryland
  Melissa Stockbridge - University of Maryland
  Rachael Tillman - University of Maryland
  Claire Kaplan - University of Maryland
  Do Tromp - University of Wisconsin
  Andrew Fox - University of Wisconsin
  Matthias Gamer - University of Wurzberg

Volume 7, Issue 3, 2016, Pages 311-342

When extreme, anxiety can become debilitating and contribute to the etiology of depression and substanceabuse. Anxiety disorders are common and challenging to treat, yet the neurocognitive mechanisms that conferincreased risk have only recently begun to come into focus. Here we review recent work highlighting theimportance of neural circuits centered on the amygdala. Converging lines of epidemiological, physiological, andmechanistic evidence indicate that the amygdala supports stable individual differences in dispositionalnegativity and contributes to the etiology of anxiety disorders and related stress-sensitive psychopathologies.Hyper-vigilance and attentional biases to threat are prominent features of the anxious phenotype and there isgrowing evidence that they contribute to the development of psychopathology. Anatomical studies show thatthe amygdala is a hub, poised to govern attention to threat via projections to sensory cortex and ascendingneuromodulatory systems. Imaging and lesion studies demonstrate that the amygdala plays a key role inenhancing the processing of potentially threat-relevant cues. Collectively, these observations provide aneurobiologically-grounded framework for understanding the development and maintenance of anxietydisorders and set the stage for developing improved intervention strategies.

Table of Contents
Elevated Dispositional Negativity Confers Heightened Risk for the Development of Anxiety Disorders
The Consequences of Elevated Dispositional Negativity for Mental Illness
Relevance of the Amygdala to Dispositional Negativity and Stress-Sensitive Psychopathology
Relevance of the Amygdala to Dispositional Negativity
Mechanistic Work Indicates that the Amygdala Causally Contributes to Extreme Anxiety
Attentional Biases to Threat-Related Cues
Threat-Related Cues Grab Attention
Relevance of Attention to Dispositional Negativity and Anxiety Disorders
Relevance of the Amygdala to Hyper-Vigilance and Attentional Biases to Threat
Persistent Hyper-vigilance for Threat May Reflect Stress-Induced Sensitization of the Amygdala
Future Challenges

Correspondence to
Alexander J. Shackman, Department of Psychology, 3123G Biology-Psychology Building, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742 USA.

affective neuroscience, amygdala, anxiety disorders, attentional biases to threat, fear and anxiety, fMRI, individual differences, neuroimaging, personality and temperament in adults and youth

Received 29 Dec 2015; Revised 9 Jun 2016; Accepted 9 Jun 2016; In Press 26 Jun 2016

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