Development and Initial Validation of a Bio-behavioral Measure of Anxiety Sensitivity



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Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is a relatively stable individual difference factor reflecting the fear of anxiety-related sensations. AS is a transdiagnostic factor of psychopathology. Despite well-validated self-report methods to measure AS, no study to date has used AS-specific stimuli to measure threat responses from a motoric fashion. Using a dual-task attentional control paradigm (i.e., approach versus avoidance) that employs AS-specific stimuli and motion-tracking technology, we sought to develop an easy-to-use bio-behavioral index of AS in sample of young adults (58.3% female, M age = 25.3, SD = 8.3; range = 18-56 years). Participants completed a self-report measure of AS (ASI-3) and subsequently took part in a virtual reality ball catching game to index their measures of approach and avoidance towards the AS-specific and neutral stimuli presented at either side of the game environment. The ASI-3 total score as well as the subscales cognitive and physical concerns showed significant bivariate correlations with the behavioral engagement with AS-specific stimuli, but not behavioral engagement with the neutral stimuli. After adjusting for age, gender, race, handedness, physical functioning, and negative affectivity, ASI-3 total score and the AS cognitive concern demonstrated significant relations with behavioral engagement with AS-specific stimuli. The present study provides preliminary, yet novel, evidence regarding the association between facets of AS with behavioral responses to AS-specific images. Future work is needed to replicate and extend the current results to clinical samples and test associations over larger periods of time.



RDoC, Biokinematic, Kinect, Virtual Reality, Anxiety sensitivity, Anxiety, Depression, Transdiagnostic, Avoidance