Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Alexandra E. Roach
Objective: Neural frequencies, measured by electroencephalogram, can be indicative of certain cognitive states. One oscillation, called the alpha wave, has become a proxy for the cognitive ability related to attention. Research suggests that anxiety may result in atypical alpha oscillations when engaging in an attention task, thereby also resulting in potentially dysfunctional attentional abilities. The current study aimed to investigate the relationship between alpha wave frequency, executive function, trait anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, and response selection.
Method: The Eriksen flanker task was used to measure response selection, while an electroencephalogram recorded alpha brainwave activity (N = 47). This study incorporated several self-report measures. It was hypothesized that dispositional measures would be able to predict alpha activity difference between rest and task states, higher levels of trait-anxiety would predict increased executive functioning deficits, and dispositional measures would predict accuracy on the incongruent trials on the Eriksen flanker task.
Results: Results showed that as anxiety symptoms increased, so did the disparity of alpha oscillations between rest and task. An increase in executive functioning deficits predicted higher levels of trait anxiety. Dispositional measures did not predict decreased accuracy on the incongruent trials on the Eriksen flanker task. However, when the dispositional measure of anxiety was separated into groups, results show that there was a near significant difference between high- and low-anxiety individuals for accuracy on the incongruent trials.
Conclusion: Implications from this study add to the cognitive neuroscience literature encompassing executive functioning while also investigating anxiety and depressive symptomology and help explain the connection between anxiety symptoms and attention deficits.
Willis, Destiny A., "The Relationship of Executive Function and Alpha Band Activity During the Eriksen Flanker Task: An EEG Study" (2020). USC Aiken Psychology Theses. 51.