The neural correlates of attentional bias in blood phobia as revealed by the N2pc

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In the literature, a lack of attentional bias in blood phobia has been reported, using both behavioral and ERP measures. However, in the tasks employed so far, attentional resources to single stimuli, rather than attentional selection, were evaluated. The present study investigated whether in blood phobics disorder-relevant pictures can capture visuo–spatial attention when paired with neutral or non-specific unpleasant pictures (attack), and participants have to focus on a visual detection task. The N2pc component of the ERPs was measured as an index of spatial attentional selection. Results showed that in blood phobics, but not in controls, injuries elicited a larger early N2pc than attack pictures when paired with neutral material. Moreover, only in blood phobics a reliable N2pc to injury-attack pairs was found. The late N2pc reversal to injury pictures suggests that early orienting to phobic cues was followed by cognitive avoidance.

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