Internalizing psychopathologies (IPs) are highly comorbid and exhibit substantial overlap, such as aberrant affective reactivity. Neural reactivity to emotional images, measured via the late positive potential (LPP) event-related potential (ERP) component, has been utilized to index affective reactivity in IPs. The LPP is often examined in isolation with a specific disorder, ignoring overlap between IPs. The current study examined how transdiagnostic IP symptom dimensions relate to neural affective reactivity in a highly comorbid patient sample.
Participants (N = 99) completed a battery of IP symptom assessments as well as a target categorization task while viewing pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral images during electroencephalography recording. ERPs to each image valence were averaged from 400 to 1000 ms following picture onset at pooled centroparietal and occipital electrodes to calculate the LPP. A principal components analysis performed on the IP symptom measures resulted in two factors: affective distress/misery and fear-based anxiety.
Fear-based anxiety was associated with enhanced LPP reactivity to unpleasant, but not pleasant, images. Distress/misery was related to attenuated average LPP reactivity across images.
Results revealed a dissociable effect of IP symptom factors in a transdiagnostic sample such that enhanced reactivity to negative images was specific to enhanced fear-based anxiety symptoms while distress/misery symptoms predicted blunted affective reactivity. Neural affective reactivity may serve as an objective biological marker to elucidate the nature of psychological concerns in individuals with comorbid IPs.