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Supplementary Material for: Neuronal and Behavioral Correlates of Health Anxiety: Results of an Illness-Related Emotional Stroop Task

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posted on 04.01.2013, 00:00 by Witthöft M., Mier D., Ofer J., Müller T., Rist F., Kirsch P., Bailer J., Diener C.
Background: Health anxiety (HA) is defined as the objectively unfounded fear or conviction of suffering from a severe illness. Predominant attention allocation to illness-related information is regarded as a central process in the development and maintenance of HA, yet little is known about the neuronal correlates of this attentional bias. Methods: An emotional Stroop task with body symptom, illness, and neutral words was employed to elicit emotional interference in healthy participants with high (HA+, n = 12) and low (HA–, n = 12) HA during functional magnetic resonance imaging. Results: Prolonged reaction times for indicating the color of symptom words and a decrease in rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC) activation were seen in HA+ participants. Emotional interference effects on the behavioral level were negatively related to rACC activity over the whole group. Groups did not differ during the processing of threatening illness words. Conclusion: The results indicate stronger attention allocation toward body symptom words already in subclinical HA. This attentional bias appears to be linked to hypoactivity of the rACC which impedes effective emotional interference reduction, leading instead to a ruminative processing of the stimulus content.