Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 224, Issue 2, pp 759–777 | Cite as

Cerebral resting state markers of biased perception in social anxiety

  • Benjamin KreifeltsEmail author
  • Lena Weigel
  • Thomas Ethofer
  • Carolin Brück
  • Michael Erb
  • Dirk Wildgruber
Original Article


Social anxiety (SA) comprises a multitude of persistent fears around the central element of dreaded negative evaluation and exclusion. This very common anxiety is spectrally distributed among the general population and associated with social perception biases deemed causal in its maintenance. Here, we investigated cerebral resting state markers linking SA and biased social perception. To this end, resting state functional connectivity (RSFC) was assessed as the neurobiological marker in a study population with greatly varying SA using fMRI in the first step of the experiment. One month later the impact of unattended laughter—exemplifying social threat—on a face rating task was evaluated as a measure of biased social perception. Applying a dimensional approach, SA-related cognitive biases tied to the valence, dominance and arousal of the threat signal and their underlying RSFC patterns among central nodes of the cerebral emotion, voice and face processing networks were identified. In particular, the connectivity patterns between the amygdalae and the right temporal voice area met all criteria for a cerebral mediation of the association between SA and the laughter valence-related interpretation bias. Thus, beyond this identification of non-state-dependent cerebral markers of biased perception in SA, this study highlights both a starting point and targets for future research on the causal relationships between cerebral connectivity patterns, SA and biased perception, potentially via neurofeedback methods.


Interpretation bias Attention bias Amygdala Fusiform face area Temporal voice area Laughter 



This work was supported by grants of the Fortüne-Program of the University of Tübingen (fortüne 1997-0-0, and fortüne 2140-0-0).

Supplementary material

429_2018_1803_MOESM1_ESM.docx (34 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 33 KB)


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyEberhard Karls University of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical Magnetic ResonanceEberhard Karls University of TübingenTübingenGermany

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