Common and specific dimensions of internalizing disorders are characterized by unique patterns of brain activity on a task of emotional cognitive control

Marie T. Banich, Louisa L. Smith, Harry R. Smolker, Benjamin L. Hankin, Rebecca L. Silton, Wendy Heller, Hannah R. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Alterations in neural systems underlying cognitive control are well-documented across individuals with various internalizing disorders. The current study examined how individual differences in underlying traits related to internalizing disorders influence brain activation, as assessed by fMRI, when cognitive control must be exerted to make a decision about the emotional valence (positive, negative) of a task-relevant word displayed concurrently with a task-irrelevant emotional face. Taking a bi-factor model approach, fifty-five middle-aged female participants were characterized on symptom level on a common internalizing latent factor representing shared symptoms across anxiety and depression, as well as on specific factors remaining after taking the common internalizing factor into account: low positive affect, anxious arousal, and anxious apprehension. Contrasting activation on trials requiring higher vs. lower control revealed that higher levels of the Common Internalizing factor are associated with less deactivation of regions of the default mode network. Higher levels of the Low Positive Affect-specific factor are associated with less differentiation in engagement of portions of the fronto-parietal control network, while higher levels of the Anxious Arousal-specific factor are associated with less of a differentiation in activation of the thalamus. No effects were observed for level of the Anxious Apprehension-specific factor. These results suggest that prior findings of alterations in default mode activity associated with depression may not be specific to depressive symptoms per se but may characterize internalizing symptoms more generally. In addition, they suggest that reduced engagement of cognitive control regions may be more associated with low positive affect than depressive symptoms more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-93
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - May 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Cognitive control
  • Depression
  • Emotion
  • Executive function
  • Individual differences
  • Internalizing disorders
  • Stroop
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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