Date of Award

7-2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Psychological Science

Program

Psychology - General

First Advisor/Chairperson

Joshua M. Carlson

Abstract

Anxiety and anxiety related disorders are increasing at a drastic rate in the past decade, with the NIMH reporting that 31.1% of U.S. adults will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. Anxiety is commonly characterized by increased attention bias to threat. Attention Bias Modification (ABM) is a new treatment used to reduce individual’s attention bias towards threat. The extent to which ABM leads to underlying neural changes is still unknown. The cerebellum is a neglected brain structure, with new research provides evidence that cerebellum’s functional connectivity and shared networks with threat processing regions has a direct impact on anxiety etiology and symptomology. Therefore, the current study assessed functional connectivity changes seeded in cerebellum as an outcome of ABM training. The experiment consists of a 6-week ABM or control training period bookended by pre and post resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rsfMRI) sessions. Heightened trait anxiety was correlated with heightened connectivity from the cerebellum to threat processing regions. (i.e., the amygdala, ACC, and the thalamus). Decreased cerebellar connectivity to threat processing regions (i.e., the amygdala, ACC, and the thalamus) was observed following ABM training. This suggests that ABM may underly neural changes within the cerebellum—resulting in decreased attention bias. This also suggests the cerebellum may contribute to the etiology and maintenance of anxiety and attention bias. Limitations and future directions concerned with both ABM and the functional role of the cerebellum are discussed.

Access Type

Open Access

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