Working memory capacity and spontaneous emotion regulation in generalised anxiety disorder
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Researchers have postulated that deficits in cognitive control are associated with, and thus may underlie, the perseverative thinking that characterises generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). We examined associations between cognitive control and levels of spontaneous state rumination following a stressor in a sample of healthy control participants (CTL; n = 27) and participants with GAD (n = 21). We assessed cognitive control by measuring working memory capacity (WMC), defined as the ability to maintain task-relevant information by ignoring task-irrelevant information. To this end, we used an affective version of the reading span task with valenced (negative or neutral) distractors. Lower WMC in the presence of negative distractors was associated with greater state rumination in the GAD group, but not in the CTL group. These findings suggest that difficulty maintaining task-relevant information due to interference from negative distractors contributes to perseverative thinking in GAD.
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