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Unfolding the Complex Dynamic Interplay Between Attentional Processes and Anxiety

A Commentary on Ghassemzadeh, Rothbart, and Posner

Heeren, Alexandre, PhD*,†; Hoebeke, Yorgo, MSc*; Coussement, Charlotte, MSc*,‡

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: March 2019 - Volume 32 - Issue 1 - p 63–66
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0000000000000187

Theories about the involvement of attention in feelings of fear and anxiety have been debated in philosophical circles since long before the foundation of experimental psychology and cognitive neuroscience. In this issue, Ghassemzadeh, Rothbart, and Posner (2019) provide a much-needed historical and conceptual review of the relations between attention and anxiety disorders. Throughout their paper, they argue that insights from the study of brain networks of attention offer a particularly viable prospect for best clarifying the complex relations between attentional processes and anxiety. We fully share this view. Moreover, we believe that the computational and conceptual tools of network analysis (also known as graph theory) can enable researchers to move even closer to elucidating the complex dynamic interplay between those phenomena. In this commentary, we explain why and how to use network analysis for this purpose.

*Psychological Science Research Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Institute of Neuroscience, Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium

Department of Clinical Research and Scientific Publications, Le Beau Vallon–Psychiatric Hospital, Namur, Belgium

Supported in part by The Helaers Foundation for Medical Research in Neuroscience, special research funds from the Université Catholique de Louvain, and the Belgian National Science Foundation to A.H., and a PhD studentship from Le Beau Vallon–Psychiatric Hospital to C.C.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Alexandre Heeren, PhD, Psychological Sciences Research Institute, Université Catholique de Louvain, Place du Cardinal Mercier, 10, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (e-mail:

Received February 14, 2019

Accepted February 15, 2019

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