Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 610–618 | Cite as

Cognitive Control in Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Relation of Inhibition Impairments to Worry and Anxiety Severity

  • Lauren S. HallionEmail author
  • David F. Tolin
  • Michal Assaf
  • John Goethe
  • Gretchen J. Diefenbach
Brief Report


Cognitive models of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) propose that cognitive control, broadly construed, and inhibition specifically, play a role in the maintenance of GAD symptoms. However, few studies have explicitly investigated inhibition, and in particular “cold” (non-emotional) inhibition, and its relation to worry and anxiety severity in GAD. Adults with GAD (n = 35) and healthy controls (n = 21) completed computerized Stroop and Go/NoGo tasks, two widely-used tests of inhibition. GAD status predicted significantly worse (slower and less accurate) performance on the Stroop but not the Go/NoGo task. Clinician-rated anxiety severity predicted slower and less accurate Stroop performance over and above the effect of GAD diagnosis but did not predict Go/NoGo performance. Trait worry did not incrementally predict performance on either task. These findings provide qualified support for theoretical models of inhibition impairments in GAD and suggest that inhibition could be a promising target for novel neurocognitive interventions.


Generalized anxiety disorder Inhibition Inhibitory control Cognitive control Worry Anxiety 



This study was funded by Grant #129522 from the Hartford HealthCare Research Funding Initiative to G. J. D.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Lauren S. Hallion declares no conflict of interest. David F. Tolin declares no conflict of interest. John Goethe declares no conflict of interest. Gretchen J. Diefenbach receives material support from Neuronetics for research.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauren S. Hallion
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David F. Tolin
    • 1
    • 3
  • Michal Assaf
    • 1
    • 3
  • John Goethe
    • 1
    • 3
  • Gretchen J. Diefenbach
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.The Institute of Living/Hartford HospitalHartfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Yale University School of MedicineNew HavenUSA

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