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Concept: Fear


Paranoia is receiving increasing attention in its own right, since it is a central experience of psychotic disorders and a marker of the health of a society. Paranoia is associated with use of the most commonly taken illicit drug, cannabis. The objective was to determine whether the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis-∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-causes paranoia and to use the drug as a probe to identify key cognitive mechanisms underlying paranoia. A randomized, placebo-controlled, between-groups test of the effects of intravenous THC was conducted. A total of 121 individuals with paranoid ideation were randomized to receive placebo, THC, or THC preceded by a cognitive awareness condition. Paranoia was assessed extensively via a real social situation, an immersive virtual reality experiment, and standard self-report and interviewer measures. Putative causal factors were assessed. Principal components analysis was used to create a composite paranoia score and composite causal variables to be tested in a mediation analysis. THC significantly increased paranoia, negative affect (anxiety, worry, depression, negative thoughts about the self), and a range of anomalous experiences, and reduced working memory capacity. The increase in negative affect and in anomalous experiences fully accounted for the increase in paranoia. Working memory changes did not lead to paranoia. Making participants aware of the effects of THC had little impact. In this largest study of intravenous THC, it was definitively demonstrated that the drug triggers paranoid thoughts in vulnerable individuals. The most likely mechanism of action causing paranoia was the generation of negative affect and anomalous experiences.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Greek loanwords, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Fear, Delusional disorder, Paranoia


Terrorism may create fear and stress reactions not only in the direct victims, but also in the general population.

Concepts: Fear, Norway, Terrorism, Oslo Airport, Gardermoen


There are relatively few existing studies examining neuropsychological functioning in social phobia (SP), which collectively yield mixed results. Interpretation of results is further complicated by a number of methodological inconsistencies across studies, including the examination of neuropsychological domains in relative isolation from one another. The present study utilized a broader collection of neuropsychological tests to assess nine domains of functioning in 25 individuals diagnosed with generalized SP and 25 nonpsychiatric controls (NC). A mixed ANOVA revealed neither a significant group by domain interaction, nor a significant main effect of group. Furthermore, no significant group differences emerged between the SP and NC groups within each specific neuropsychological domain. These findings suggest that underlying neuropsychological deficits are not likely to account for the information processing biases observed in the empirical literature, and appear to be consistent with current theoretical models which argue for the specificity of these biases to social information.

Concepts: Scientific method, Generalized anxiety disorder, Fear, Fight-or-flight response, Social anxiety disorder, Panic attack, Phobias, Specific social phobia


Diagnostic features of emotional expressions are differentially distributed across the face. The current study examined whether these diagnostic features are preferentially attended to even when they are irrelevant for the task at hand or when faces appear at different locations in the visual field. To this aim, fearful, happy and neutral faces were presented to healthy individuals in two experiments while measuring eye movements. In Experiment 1, participants had to accomplish an emotion classification, a gender discrimination or a passive viewing task. To differentiate fast, potentially reflexive, eye movements from a more elaborate scanning of faces, stimuli were either presented for 150 or 2000 ms. In Experiment 2, similar faces were presented at different spatial positions to rule out the possibility that eye movements only reflect a general bias for certain visual field locations. In both experiments, participants fixated the eye region much longer than any other region in the face. Furthermore, the eye region was attended to more pronouncedly when fearful or neutral faces were shown whereas more attention was directed toward the mouth of happy facial expressions. Since these results were similar across the other experimental manipulations, they indicate that diagnostic features of emotional expressions are preferentially processed irrespective of task demands and spatial locations. Saliency analyses revealed that a computational model of bottom-up visual attention could not explain these results. Furthermore, as these gaze preferences were evident very early after stimulus onset and occurred even when saccades did not allow for extracting further information from these stimuli, they may reflect a preattentive mechanism that automatically detects relevant facial features in the visual field and facilitates the orientation of attention towards them. This mechanism might crucially depend on amygdala functioning and it is potentially impaired in a number of clinical conditions such as autism or social anxiety disorders.

Concepts: Anxiety, Emotion, Anxiety disorder, Face, Paul Ekman, Fear, Social anxiety, Social anxiety disorder


BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders and is associated with marked impairments. However, a small proportion of individuals with SAD seek and receive treatment. Internet-administrated cognitive behavior therapy (iCBT) has been found to be an effective treatment for SAD. This trial will be the first Internet-delivered guided self-help intervention for SAD in Romania. METHODS: Participants with social anxiety disorder (N = 96) will be recruited via newspapers, online banners and Facebook. Participants will be randomized to either: a) an active treatment, or b) a waiting list control group.The treatment will have a guided iCBT format and will last for nine weeks. Self-report questionnaires on social phobia, anxiety, depression, treatment credibility and irrational thinking will be used. All assessments will be collected pre, post and at follow-up (six months after intervention). Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale – Self-Report version (LSAS-SR) will be the primary outcome measure and will be administrated on a weekly basis in both conditions. DISCUSSION: The present randomized controlled trial investigates the efficacy of an Internet-administered intervention in reducing social anxiety symptoms in a culture where this form of treatment has not been tested. This trial will add to the body of knowledge on the efficacy of iCBT, and the results might lead to an increase of the accessibility of evidence-based psychological treatment in Romania.Trial NCT01557894.

Concepts: Cognitive behavioral therapy, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Alprazolam, Fear, Social anxiety, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder


Cognitive theorists relate anxiety disorders to the way in which emotional information is processed. The existing research suggests that patients with anxiety disorders tend to allocate their attention toward threat-related information selectively, and this may differ among different types of anxious subjects. The aim of this study was to explore attentional bias in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder (PD) using the emotional Stroop task and compare the differences between them.

Concepts: Psychology, Anxiety disorder, Generalized anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Alprazolam, Fear, Anxiety disorders, Social anxiety disorder


Personality and anxiety disorders across species are affected by genetic and environmental factors. Shyness-boldness personality continuum exists across species, including the domestic dog, with a large within- and across-breed variation. Domestic dogs are also diagnosed for several anxiety-related behavioral conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorders, phobias, and separation anxiety. Genetic and environmental factors contributing to personality and anxiety are largely unknown. We collected questionnaire data from a Finnish family dog population (N = 3264) in order to study the associating environmental factors for canine fearfulness, noise sensitivity, and separation anxiety. Early life experiences and exercise were found to associate with anxiety prevalence. We found that fearful dogs had less socialization experiences (p = 0.002) and lower quality of maternal care (p < 0.0001) during puppyhood. Surprisingly, the largest environmental factor associating with noise sensitivity (p < 0.0001) and separation anxiety (p = 0.007) was the amount of daily exercise; dogs with noise sensitivity and separation anxiety had less daily exercise. Our findings suggest that dogs share many of the same environmental factors that contribute to anxiety in other species as well, such as humans and rodents. Our study highlights the importance of early life experiences, especially the quality of maternal care and daily exercise for the welfare and management of the dogs, and reveals important confounding factors to be considered in the genetic characterization of canine anxiety.

Concepts: Anxiety, Anxiety disorder, Panic disorder, Fear, Dog, Anxiety disorders, Dog health, Insomnia


Efficient detection and reaction to negative signals in the environment is essential for survival. In social situations, these signals are often ambiguous and can imply different levels of threat for the observer, thereby making their recognition susceptible to contextual cues - such as gaze direction when judging facial displays of emotion. However, the mechanisms underlying such contextual effects remain poorly understood. By computational modeling of human behavior and electrical brain activity, we demonstrate that gaze direction enhances the perceptual sensitivity to threat-signaling emotions - anger paired with direct gaze, and fear paired with averted gaze. This effect arises simultaneously in ventral face-selective and dorsal motor cortices at 200 ms following face presentation, dissociates across individuals as a function of anxiety, and does not reflect increased attention to threat-signaling emotions. These findings reveal that threat tunes neural processing in fast, selective, yet attention-independent fashion in sensory and motor systems, for different adaptive purposes.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Neuroscience, Sense, Behavior, Human behavior, Fear, Emotions


Memories can be unreliable. We created a false memory in mice by optogenetically manipulating memory engram-bearing cells in the hippocampus. Dentate gyrus (DG) or CA1 neurons activated by exposure to a particular context were labeled with channelrhodopsin-2. These neurons were later optically reactivated during fear conditioning in a different context. The DG experimental group showed increased freezing in the original context, in which a foot shock was never delivered. The recall of this false memory was context-specific, activated similar downstream regions engaged during natural fear memory recall, and was also capable of driving an active fear response. Our data demonstrate that it is possible to generate an internally represented and behaviorally expressed fear memory via artificial means.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Fear, Amnesia, Entorhinal cortex


Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is used recreationally and has been evaluated as an adjunct to psychotherapy to treat anxiety in patients with life-threatening illness. LSD is well-known to induce perceptual alterations, but unknown is whether LSD alters emotional processing in ways that can support psychotherapy. We investigated the acute effects of LSD on emotional processing using the Face Emotion Recognition Task (FERT) and Multifaceted Empathy Test (MET). The effects of LSD on social behavior were tested using the Social Value Orientation (SVO) test. Two similar placebo-controlled, double-blind, random-order, cross-over studies were conducted using 100 μg LSD in 24 subjects and 200 μg LSD in 16 subjects. All of the subjects were healthy and mostly hallucinogen-naive 25- to 65-year-old volunteers (20 men, 20 women). LSD produced feelings of happiness, trust, closeness to others, enhanced explicit and implicit emotional empathy on the MET, and impaired the recognition of sad and fearful faces on the FERT. LSD enhanced the participants' desire to be with other people and increased their prosocial behavior on the SVO test. These effects of LSD on emotion processing and sociality may be useful for LSD-assisted psychotherapy.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 01 June 2016. doi:10.1038/npp.2016.82.

Concepts: Psychology, Empathy, Emotion, Fear, Lysergic acid diethylamide, Lysergic acid, Ergot, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies