EEG correlates of attentional control in anxiety disorders: A systematic review of error-related negativity and correct-response negativity findings

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Background: Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent and cause substantial personal, social and economic burden. Altered attentional control has been shown to be present across anxiety disorders and is associated with specific changes in brain activity which can be recorded by electroencephalogram (EEG). These include changes in the EEG markers of error-related negativity (ERN) and correct-response negativity (CRN), both believed to reflect response monitoring and attentional control pathophysiology in anxiety. The aim of this review was to systematically assess the research on ERN and CRN in attentional control in individuals with clinical anxiety and healthy controls, across emotional and non-emotional attentional control. Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted for studies published prior to October 22nd, 2020. Details of the protocol for this systematic review were registered on PROSPERO (CRD42019144885). Results: 66 studies had their data extracted. All 66 studies measured ERN, with 85% finding significantly increased ERN amplitudes associated with clinical anxiety. Only 44 of the extracted studies analysed CRN and only ~20% of these found significant changes in CRN amplitude associated with individuals with clinical anxiety. Limitations: There were several anxiety disorders that had either limited literature (i.e. specific phobia, separation anxiety disorder or agoraphobia) or nil literature (i.e. selective mutism) available. No extracted studies included samples of older adults (i.e. aged 60+ years), and only six extracted studies included measures of emotional attentional control. Conclusions: Findings indicate the promising utility of ERN of attentional control as a robust, transdiagnostic trait marker of clinical anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-153
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Attentional Control
  • CRN
  • EEG
  • ERN

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