Robust single-trial event-related potentials differentiate between distress and fear disorders

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Recent evidence indicates that measures of brain functioning as indexed by event-related potentials (ERPs) on the electroencephalogram align more closely to transdiagnostic measures of psychopathology than to categorical taxonomies. The Hierarchical Taxonomy of Psychopathology (HiTOP) is a transdiagnostic, dimensional framework aiming to solve issues of comorbidity, symptom heterogeneity, and arbitrary diagnostic boundaries. Based on shared features, the emotional disorders are allocated into subfactors Distress and Fear. Evidence indicates that disorders that are close in the HiTOP hierarchy share etiology, symptom profiles, and treatment outcomes. However, further studies testing the biological underpinnings of the HiTOP are called for. In this study, we assessed differences between Distress and Fear in a range of well-studied ERP components. In total, 50 patients with emotional disorders were divided into two groups (Distress, N = 25; Fear, N = 25) according to HiTOP criteria and compared against 37 healthy comparison (HC) subjects. Addressing issues in traditional ERP preprocessing and analysis methods, we applied robust single-trial analysis as implemented in the EEGLAB toolbox LIMO EEG. Several ERP components were found to differ between the groups. Surprisingly, we found no difference between Fear and HC for any of the ERPs. This suggests that some well-established results from the literature, e.g., increased error-related negativity in OCD, are not a shared neurobiological correlate of the Fear subfactor. Conversely, for Distress, we found reductions compared to Fear and HC in several ERP components across paradigms. Future studies could utilize HiTOP-validated psychopathology measures to more precisely define subfactor groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14500
Issue number5
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Psychophysiology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Psychophysiological Research.

    Research areas

  • Analysis/Statistical Methods < Methods, ERPs < Methods, Groups < Groups Studied, Psychiatric < Patient, Psychopathology < Content/Topics

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