The influence of emotional stimuli on attention orienting and inhibitory control in pediatric anxiety

Sven C. Mueller, Michael G. Hardin, Karin Mogg, Valerie Benson, Brendan P. Bradley, Marie Louise Reinholdt-Dunne, Simon P. Liversedge, Daniel S. Pine, Monique Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent in children and adolescents, and are associated with aberrant emotion-related attention orienting and inhibitory control. While recent studies conducted with high-trait anxious adults have employed novel emotion-modified antisaccade tasks to examine the influence of emotional information on orienting and inhibition, similar studies have yet to be conducted in youths. Methods: Participants were 22 children/adolescents diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and 22 age-matched healthy comparison youths. Participants completed an emotion-modified antisaccade task that was similar to those used in studies of high-trait anxious adults. This task probed the influence of abruptly appearing neutral, happy, angry, or fear stimuli on orienting (prosaccade) or inhibitory (antisaccade) responses. Results: Anxious compared to healthy children showed facilitated orienting toward angry stimuli. With respect to inhibitory processes, threat-related information improved antisaccade accuracy in healthy but not anxious youth. These findings were not linked to individual levels of reported anxiety or specific anxiety disorders. Conclusions: Findings suggest that anxious relative to healthy children manifest enhanced orienting toward threat-related stimuli. In addition, the current findings suggest that threat may modulate inhibitory control during adolescent development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-863
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • bias
  • children
  • development
  • emotion
  • inhibition
  • orienting
  • saccade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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