Altered relationship between prefrontal glutamate and activation during cognitive control in people with high trait anxiety

Elenor Morgenroth , Natasza Orlov, David Lythgoe, James Stone, Holly Barker, James Munro, Michael Eysenck, Paul Allen

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Trait anxiety can affect cognitive control resulting in ineffective and/or inefficient task performance. Moreover, previous functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) studies have reported altered dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) activity in anxious cohorts, particularly when executive control is required. Recently, it has been demonstrated that cortical glutamate levels can predict both functional activation during cognitive control, and anxiety levels. In the present study we sought to investigate the relationship between trait anxiety, prefrontal glutamate levels and functional activation in DLPFC during a cognitive control task. Thirty-nine participants assigned to either low trait anxiety (LTA) or high trait anxiety (HTA) groups underwent 1H-Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (1H-MRS) to measure levels of resting glutamate in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Participants also completed fMRI during a Stroop task comprising congruent and incongruent colour word trials. The HTA group showed reduced task performance relative to the LTA group. In the LTA group, there was a positive association between PFC Glu levels and DLPFC activation during incongruent trials. This association was absent in the HTA group. Individual differences in trait anxiety affect the relationship between PFC glutamate levels and DLPFC activation, possibly contributing to ineffective task performance when cognitive control is required.

© 2019, Elsevier. The attached document (embargoed until 07/03/2020) is an author produced version of a paper published in CORTEX uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
Issue numberAugust 2019
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2019


  • Anxiety
  • Attention
  • Glutamate
  • Inhibition

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