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Resting and reactive frontal brain electrical activity (EEG) among a non-clinical sample of socially anxious adults: Does concurrent depressive mood matter?

Authors Beaton EA, Schmidt LA, Ashbaugh AR, Santesso DL, Antony MM, McCabe RE

Published 8 February 2008 Volume 2008:4(1) Pages 187—192


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Elliott A Beaton1, Louis A Schmidt2, Andrea R Ashbaugh2,5, Diane L Santesso2, Martin M Antony1,3,4, Randi E McCabe1,3

1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; 2Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; 3Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; 4Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; 5Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Abstract: A number of studies have noted that the pattern of resting frontal brain electrical activity (EEG) is related to individual differences in affective style in healthy infants, children, and adults and some clinical populations when symptoms are reduced or in remission. We measured self-reported trait shyness and sociability, concurrent depressive mood, and frontal brain electrical activity (EEG) at rest and in anticipation of a speech task in a non-clinical sample of healthy young adults selected for high and low social anxiety. Although the patterns of resting and reactive frontal EEG asymmetry did not distinguish among individual differences in social anxiety, the pattern of resting frontal EEG asymmetry was related to trait shyness after controlling for concurrent depressive mood. Individuals who reported a higher degree of shyness were likely to exhibit greater relative right frontal EEG activity at rest. However, trait shyness was not related to frontal EEG asymmetry measured during the speech-preparation task, even after controlling for concurrent depressive mood. These findings replicate and extend prior work on resting frontal EEG asymmetry and individual differences in affective style in adults. Findings also highlight the importance of considering concurrent emotional states of participants when examining psychophysiological correlates of personality.

Keywords: social anxiety, shyness, sociability, depression, mood, frontal EEG alpha asymmetry

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