Impaired cardiac profile in adolescents with an increasing trajectory of anxiety when confronting an acute stressor

de la Torre-Luque, A., Fiol-Veny, A., Bornas, X. et al. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2017). doi:10.1007/s00787-017-1009-8

Maladaptive patterns of cardiac adjustment to stress in adolescents may reveal their vulnerability to anxiety disorders (ADs). Traditional research in this field has focused on anxiety levels, whereas the time course of anxiety has rarely been considered. Nevertheless, since overall anxiety decreases as adolescence progresses, increasing time courses are clinically relevant and can be associated with maladaptive contextual adjustment. In this study, the cardiac pattern of adjustment to stress in adolescents with increasing anxiety was analysed. A sample of 44 adolescents (M = 14.88 years, SD = 0.53, 45.45% boys) were exposed to a socially relevant stress induction protocol, and their cardiac functioning was recorded. Participants with a trajectory of increasing anxious symptomatology over a 12-month period (n = 24) showed attenuated heart rate levels in the stage of maximum stress in comparison to their non-increasing anxious counterparts (p < 0.05), as well as a heightened pattern of sample entropy throughout the stress induction (p < 0.05). These findings suggest a loss of cardiac flexibility in those adolescents at risk of ADs when confronting an acute stressor.

Uso de una red social segura para el estudio de la ansiedad en la adolescencia

Bornas, X.; Llabrés, J.; Balle, M.; de la Torre-Luque, A.; Fiol-Veny, A.

The aim of this paper is to introduce the TrANS Project and the first results obtained from two studies. This Project allows to examine trajectories of anxiety symptoms and state anxiety in adolescents by means of ICT, in particular a secure social network for data collection. Study 1 describes the structure and functioning of the secure social network XS2 and provides results of the participant’s login and use. Study 2 presents the fluctuations of the daily emotional state and the use of maladaptive emotion regulation strategies during an exam period, as well as the influence of risk factors on these fluctuations. In conclusion, the advantages derived from the use of a secure social network are emphasized, in comparison to other traditional data collection methods, in the study of the adolescent anxiety.

Patients’ preferences regarding three computer-based exposure treatments for fear of flying

Juana Bretón-López, Miquel Tortella-Feliu, Antonio Riera del Amo, Rosa Baños, Jordi Llabrés, Joan M. Gelabert and Cristina Botella


This study analyses participants’ preferences regarding three computer- aided exposure treatments for fear of flying (FF): virtual reality exposure treatment assisted by a therapist (VRET), computer-aided exposure with a therapist present throughout exposure sessions (CAE-T), and self-administered computer-aided exposure (CAE-SA). Sixty participants with FF were randomly assigned to one of these treatments. At the end of a treatment, a demonstration of the other two treatment options was given and patients were asked to rate their preferences. At post-treatment, assessment data on treatment preferences were obtained from 48 participants (CAE-T n= 14; CAE-SA n= 16, and VRET n= 18). Participants favoured VRET as the most effective, the most recommended, but also they valued it as the most aversive. Attending to the specific treatment condition received by the participants, results showed that in VRET and CAE-T, participants assessed their own treatment as more preferred, more efficacious and more recommendable. Results suggest relevant features regarding the efficiency of computer-based treatments, and offer insights into improving computer-aided psychological interventions.

Spontaneous EEG activity and spontaneous emotion regulation

M. Tortella-Feliu, A. Morillas-Romero, M. Balle, J. Llabrés, X. Bornas, P. Putman

International Journal of Psychophysiology, Volume 94, Issue 3, December 2014, Pages 365-372, ISSN 0167-8760,

Variability in both frontal and parietal spontaneous EEG activity, using α and β band power and θ/β and δ/β ratios, was explored in a sample of 96 healthy volunteers as a potential correlate of individual differences in spontaneous emotion regulation (SER). Following a baseline EEG recording, participants were asked to continuously rate their discomfort while looking at affective pictures, as well as for a period of time after exposure. Greater spontaneous β band power in parietal locations, lower frontal and parietal δ/β ratios, and lower parietal θ/β ratio were associated with lower ratings of discomfort after the offset of unpleasant pictures. Moreover, lower parietal δ/β ratio was also related to less time needed to recover from discomfort after exposure to aversive pictures, while only a greater frontal and parietal α band power appeared to be associated with faster recovery from discomfort induced by normative-neutral pictures. However, parietal δ/β ratio was the only predictor of both minimum discomfort ratings and time needed to downregulate following exposure to unpleasant pictures, and frontal α band power the only spontaneous EEG index that predicted variability in spontaneous down-regulation after the exposure to normative-neutral pictures. Results are discussed focusing on the utility of diverse spontaneous EEG measures in several cortical regions when capturing trait-like individual differences in emotion regulation capabilities and processes.
Keywords: Emotion regulation; Spontaneous emotion regulation; Resting EEG; delta/beta ratio; theta/beta ratio

Attentional control, attentional network functioning, and emotion regulation styles

Miquel Tortella-Feliu, Alfonso Morillas-Romero, Maria Balle, Xavier Bornas, Jordi Llabrés, Antonia P Pacheco-Unguetti

University Institute for Research on Health Sciences , University of the Balearic Islands

Cognition and Emotion (Impact Factor: 2.52). 12/2013; DOI:10.1080/02699931.2013.860889

ABSTRACT Attentional network functioning in emotionally neutral conditions and self-reported attentional control (AC) were analysed as predictors of the tendency to engage in dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies. Diminished attentional orienting predicted an increased tendency to engage in brooding rumination, and enhanced alertness predicted a greater chance of suppression, beyond trait anxiety and self-reported AC, which were not predictive of either rumination or suppression. This is the first study to show that some forms of dysfunctional emotion regulation are related to the attentional network functioning in emotionally neutral conditions. Results are discussed in relation to regulatory temperament and anxiety-related attentional biases literature.

Resting Parietal Electroencephalogram Asymmetries and Self-Reported Attentional Control

Morillas-Romero Alfonso
Tortella-Feliu Miquel
Bornas Xavier
Aguayo-Siquier Blanca

Research on electroencephalogram (EEG) asymmetries and anxiety proneness has recently spread to emotion regulation capabilities. We studied whether attentional control (AC), a temperamental construct related to emotional regulation, was associated with asymmetrical patterns of resting EEG activity at the frontal and parietal regions, reflected not only in the α frequency band (8-13 Hz) but also in higher bands β1 (13-20 Hz) and β2 (20-30 Hz). Self-reports of AC and trait anxiety, and resting EEG recordings, were obtained from 58 healthy participants. Correlational analysis showed that lower levels of self-reported AC were associated with less α, β1, and β2 powers in the left parietal cortex, while no significant relationships were found between the AC and EEG oscillations in the prefrontal cortex. The role of the left and right parietal lobes in the attentional processes is discussed.

Published online before print March 31, 2013, doi: 10.1177/1550059412465871
Clin EEG Neurosci July 2013 vol. 44 no. 3 188-192

Complexity of Everyday Life Heart Rate Dynamics and Attentional Control in Healthy Students

Xavier Bornas,Jordi Llabres, Alfonso Morillas-Romero, Blanca Aguayo-Siquier, Maria Balle, Miquel Tortella-Feliu
Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology and Life Sciences, 3, 2013

Abstract: Effective regulation of emotions requires the ability to voluntarily manage attention, i.e. attentional control (AC), which has been related to heart rate variability and vagal tone in laboratory based research. In this study, we calculated the correlation dimension (CD), the fractal-like properties (scaling exponents ?1 and ?2, and fractal dimension) and the sample entropy of heart rate time series obtained from ECG recordings (4 hours long each) taken from a sample of healthy students (n=47) during everyday activities. AC was assessed through a self-reported questionnaire. As expected, a linear positive correlation was found between AC scores and CD and entropy, but no associations were found between AC and ?1 and fractal dimension. The association between AC and ?2 was negative and marginally significant. No associations were found between AC and linear heart rate variability measures. These results show that nonlinear measures of long, everyday life, heart rate time series may provide useful information about the AC ability of healthy students.

Keywords: attentional control, heart rate, electrocardiography, complexity


Long-Range Temporal Correlations in Resting EEG

Xavier Bornas, Miquel Noguera, Maria Balle, Alfonso Morillas-Romero, Blanca Aguayo-Siquier, Miquel Tortella-Feliu, Jordi Llabrés
Journal of Psychophysiology (2013), 27, 2, 60-66. DOI – 10.1027/0269-8803/a000087

Several studies have reported differences in long-range temporal correlations of EEG oscillations between depressed and nondepressed individuals. The question remains unsolved whether these differences are also linked to negative emotion regulation strategies that configure a depressive style. In this study we applied detrended fluctuation analysis to the amplitude envelope of broad band and narrow band (theta and alpha) spontaneous EEG oscillations of a sample (N = 56) of young nondepressed adults to whom several emotion regulation and depression questionnaires were administered. Linear positive correlations between the scaling exponents of both broad band and theta band oscillations and negative emotion regulation strategies and depression scores were found. These results suggest that previously found differences between depressed and nondepressed individuals may exist before depression manifests, as differences could be linked to a negative emotion regulation style that in some cases could lead to the development of a depressive disorder.

Resting parietal EEG asymmetry and cardiac vagal tone predict attentional control.

Maria Balle, Xavier Bornas, Miquel Tortella-Feliu, Jordi Llabrés, Alfonso Morillas, Blanca Aguayo, Joan Miquel Gelabert
Biological psychology (impact factor: 4.36). 02/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.02.012

The present study explores both resting cortical EEG asymmetry and vagally-mediated heart rate variability (HRV), as an index for vagal tone, as physiological correlates of self-reported attentional control in a sample of 53 healthy young adults. Regression analyses indicate that higher vagally-mediated HRV and lower right-sided parietal activity in the β2 frequency range (20 to 30Hz) are significant predictors of larger attentional control. Results are in line with some of the basic features of the neurovisceral integration model and stress the role of parietal areas in attentional control capabilities, thus aiming to consider attentional control as a trait-like disposition.

Effects of temperament and emotion regulation styles in determining negative emotional states.

Miquel Tortella-Feliu, Blanca Aguayo, Albert Sesé, Alfonso Morillas-Romero, Maria Balle, Joan Miquel Gelabert, Xavier Bornas, Jordi Llabrés
Universitat de les Illes Balears
Actas espanolas de psiquiatria (impact factor: 0.59). 11/2012; 40(6):315-22.

Introduction. The interplay of reactive and regulatory temperamental processes appears to be essential for a better understanding of emotional states and disorders. In this study we explored the prospective relationship between reactive temperament (negative affect), regulatory temperament (effortful control), negative emotion regulation styles (rumination and suppression) and self-recorded anxiety, worry, and avoidance in naturalistic conditions. Method. Thirty-two young adults were first assessed through questionnaires on negative affectivity, effortful control, and two forms of negative emotion regulation (rumination and suppression). After this they recorded anxiety, worry, and avoidance three times a day over 50 consecutive days through an on-line access electronic diary. Results. High levels of negative affect and low levels of effortful control were associated with higher levels of anxiety, worry, and avoidance (p<.01). The prospective association between negative affectivity and avoidance was moderated by effortful control (Total R2=.49). Moreover, the brooding facet of rumination totally mediated the association between negative affect and anxiety with a significant indirect effect (Effect=.30, Boot CI95%=.09 to .69). Conclusions. Avoidance patterns are significantly determined by negative affect – effortful control interaction and rumination, especially brooding, totally mediates the relationship between negative affect and anxiety.