News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.


The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

Heightened Sensitivity to Emotional Expressions in Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Compared to Social Anxiety Disorder, and Controls

By Eric Bui, Eric Anderson, Elizabeth M. Goetter, Allison A. Campbell, Laura E. Fischer, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Naomi M. Simon | Cognition and Emotion | September 23, 2015


Few studies have examined potential differences between social anxiety disorder (SAD) and generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in the sensitivity to detect emotional expressions. The present study aims to compare the detection of emotional expressions in SAD and GAD. Participants with a primary diagnosis of GAD (n = 46), SAD (n = 70), and controls (n = 118) completed a morph movies task. The task presented faces expressing increasing degrees of emotional intensity, slowly changing from a neutral to a full-intensity happy, sad, or angry expressions. Participants used a slide bar to view the movie frames from left to right, and to stop at the first frame where they perceived an emotion. The frame selected thus indicated the intensity of emotion required to identify the facial expression. Participants with GAD detected the onset of facial emotions at lower intensity of emotion than participants with SAD (p = 0.002) and controls (p = 0.039). In a multiple regression analysis controlling for age, race, and depressive symptom severity, lower frame at which the emotion was detected was independently associated and GAD diagnosis (B = –5.73, SE = 1.74, p < 0.01). Our findings suggest that individuals with GAD exhibit enhanced detection of facial emotions compared to those with SAD or controls.

Read the full paper here.

Episodic Future Thinking in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By Jade Q. Wu, Karl K. Szpunar, Sheina A. Godovich, Daniel L. Schacter, and Stefan G. Hofmann | Journal of Anxiety Disorders | December 2015


Research on future-oriented cognition in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) has primarily focused on worry, while less is known about the role of episodic future thinking (EFT), an imagery-based cognitive process. To characterize EFT in this disorder, we used the experimental recombination procedure, in which 21 GAD and 19 healthy participants simulated positive, neutral and negative novel future events either once or repeatedly, and rated their phenomenological experience of EFT. Results showed that healthy controls spontaneously generated more detailed EFT over repeated simulations. Both groups found EFT easier to generate after repeated simulations, except when GAD participants simulated positive events. They also perceived higher plausibility of negative—not positive or neutral—future events than did controls. These results demonstrate a negativity bias in GAD individuals’ episodic future cognition, and suggest their relative deficit in generating vivid EFT. We discuss implications for the theory and treatment of GAD.

Read the full paper here.