Behavior characteristics of the attention network of military personnel with high and low trait anxiety

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Converging evidence reveals significant increase in both state anxiety and trait anxiety during the past 2 decades among military servicemen and servicewomen in China. In the present study, we employed the Chinese version of the State-trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) to examine trait and state anxiety in Chinese military servicemen and servicewomen. We further evaluated orienting, alerting and execution inhibition using the attention network test.

Healthy military servicemen and servicewomen were recruited for the present study. The STAI was used to measure both state and trait anxiety and the attention network test was done to determine reaction time and accuracy rate.

Fifty-seven subjects were eligible for the study. Their mean STAI score was 3.2 ± 2.8 (range, 1–17) and 29 (50.9%) subjects were categorized into the high trait anxiety group and 28 (49.1%) subjects into the low trait anxiety group. The reaction time of the high trait anxiety group to incongruent, congruent, and neutral target was significantly longer than that of the low trait anxiety group (P < .05). Moreover, the accurate rate of the high trait anxiety group for incongruent, congruent, and neutral target was significantly higher than that of the low trait anxiety group (P < .05). Repeated analysis of variance showed marked effect of trait anxiety, cue types, and target types on reaction time. There was significant interaction among trait anxiety, target types, and cue types. Trait anxiety and target types also had marked effect on the accurate rate. Multivariate analysis showed no marked effect of trait anxiety on the alerting, orienting, and execution inhibition subnetwork.

The present study has demonstrated that military service personnel with high trait anxiety requires more time for cognitive processing of external information but exhibits enhanced reaction accuracy rate compared to those with low trait anxiety. Our findings indicate that interventional strategies to improve the psychological wellbeing of military service personnel should be implemented to improve combat mission performance.

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