Altered activation of the ventral striatum under performance-related observation in social anxiety disorder
BACKGROUND: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by fear of social and performance situations. The consequence of scrutiny by others for the neural processing of performance feedback in SAD is unknown. METHODS: We used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate brain activation to positive, negative, and uninformative performance feedback in patients diagnosed with SAD and age-, gender-, and education-matched healthy control subjects who performed a time estimation task during a social observation condition and a non-social control condition: while either being monitored or unmonitored by a body camera, subjects received performance feedback after performing a time estimation that they could not fully evaluate without external feedback. RESULTS: We found that brain activation in ventral striatum (VS) and midcingulate cortex was modulated by an interaction of social context and feedback type. SAD patients showed a lack of social-context-dependent variation of feedback processing, while control participants showed an enhancement of brain responses specifically to positive feedback in VS during observation. CONCLUSIONS: The present findings emphasize the importance of social-context processing in SAD by showing that scrutiny prevents appropriate reward-processing-related signatures in response to positive performances in SAD.