Anxiety and Brain Networks of Attentional Control

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Advances in the study of brain networks can be applied to our understanding of anxiety disorders (eg, generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and posttraumatic stress disorders) to enable us to create targeted treatments. These disorders have in common an inability to control thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to a perceived threat. Here we review animal and human imaging studies that have revealed separate brain networks related to various negative emotions. Research has supported the idea that brain networks of attention serve to control emotion networks as well as the thoughts and behaviors related to them. We discuss how attention networks can modulate both positive and negative affect. Disorders arise from both abnormal activation of negative affect and a lack of attentional control. Training attention has been one way to foster improved attentional control. We review attention training studies as well as efforts to generally improve attention networks through stimulation in self-regulation.

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