Neuronal correlates of spider phobia in a combined fNIRS‑EEG study
Specific phobia is associated with aberrant brain activation in confrontation paradigms with phobic stimuli. In previous EEG research enhanced event-related potentials (ERPs) in the latepositive potential (LPP) window have been observed. Further, studies with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and fMRI suggest that spider phobia is associated with enhanced activation within cortical and subcortical areas. In the current study we investigated the neuronal correlates of spider phobia in a combined fNIRS-EEG study. To this end, 37 spider phobic patients (PP) and 32 healthy controls (HC) underwent a symptom provocation paradigm during which subjects watched video clips of spiders and domestic animals (confrontation phase) after being primed on the content of the video (anticipation phase). Simultaneously, fNIRS, EEG, electromyography (EMG), electrocardiography and behavioral measures were assessed. Results showed increased LPP amplitudes, increased hemodynamic responses in the cognitive control network, and increased EMG activity and heart rate during spider conditions in PP in comparison to HC. Furthermore, in behavioral ratings PP showed higher emotional distress and avoidance. Behavioral ratings, fNIRS and EEG data showed positive correlations on a between-subject as well as on a within-subject level. Our results merge the existing data on neurophysiological correlates of phobic stimulus processing in hemodynamic and electrophysiological research and extend those of static visual material (pictures) to dynamic visual material (videos).