Greg Hajcak

Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, United States

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Publications (145)533.53 Total impact

  • Jamie Ferri, Greg Hajcak
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    ABSTRACT: Attentional deployment is an emotion regulation strategy that involves shifting attentional focus within an emotional scene in order to modulate emotional experience. Attentional deployment is widely used and effective at reducing negative affect, yet the supporting neural mechanisms are poorly understood. The rich literature on the neural correlates of reappraisal may help inform our understanding of attentional deployment, as reappraisal recruits common control regions associated with emotion regulation and may tap into specific mechanisms associated with directing attention. We highlight commonalities between reappraisal and attentional deployment and then focus on potentially unique aspects of attentional deployment, including the importance of parietal regions and implications for understanding the normative development of emotion regulation, as well as both well-being and psychopathology.
    06/2015; 3:17-21. DOI:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.01.010
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    ABSTRACT: There is growing evidence that heightened sensitivity to unpredictable threat is a core mechanism of dysfunction in anxiety disorders. However, it is unclear whether anxiety sensitivity is also associated with sensitivity to unpredictable threat. In the present study, 131 participants completed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index–3, which includes physical concerns (PC), social concerns (SC), and cognitive concerns (CC) subscales, and a predictable vs. unpredictable threat-of-shock task. Startle eyeblink and ERP responses (N100, P300) to the acoustic startle probes were measured during the task. PC and CC were associated with heightened and attenuated, respectively, startle for the unpredictable (but not predictable) condition. CC were also associated with attenuated probe N100 for the unpredictable condition only, and PC were associated with increased P300 suppression across the predictable and unpredictable conditions. This study provides novel evidence that the different anxiety sensitivity dimensions demonstrate unique relationships with the RDoC domains “acute” and “potential” threat.
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    ABSTRACT: Reduced auditory target P300 amplitude is a leading biomarker for psychotic disorders, although its relevance for differential diagnosis and link to specific clinical features (symptom profiles, functional impairment, and course) are unclear. This study aims to clarify the clinical significance of auditory target P300 using concurrent and retrospective clinical data from a longitudinal cohort with psychosis. 92 cases from an epidemiological study of first-admission psychosis were assessed using an auditory oddball paradigm at 15-year follow-up along with 44 never-psychotic adults. Subcomponents of auditory target P300 amplitude (i.e., a central positive P3a, a parietal positive P3b, and a frontal negative slow wave) were isolated using temporal-spatial principal component analysis. P3a amplitude was blunted across psychotic disorders relative to non-psychotic adults. P3b amplitude was reduced in schizophrenia specifically, including cases initially misclassified at baseline. The frontal negative slow wave did not distinguish among groups. P3b amplitude reduction was associated with several clinical features at the concurrent assessment, as well as previous time points, including recovery from psychosis even 5years earlier and functioning even 15years earlier. Auditory target P300 amplitude yields both a schizophrenia-specific component (i.e., P3b) and a transdiagnostic psychosis component (i.e., P3a). The P3b component may also shed light on prognosis, real-world functioning, and course, as well as help to reduce misdiagnosis of psychotic disorders. Prospective studies are needed to test whether P3b tracks or predicts clinical status. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Schizophrenia Research 04/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.schres.2015.04.013 · 4.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Identifying early markers of risk for anxiety disorders in children may aid in understanding underlying mechanisms and informing prevention efforts. Affective modulation of the startle response indexes sensitivity to pleasant and unpleasant environmental contexts and has been shown to relate to anxiety, yet the extent to which abnormalities in affect-modulated startle reflect vulnerability for anxiety disorders in children has yet to be examined. The current study assessed the effects of parental psychopathology on affective modulation of startle in offspring. Nine-year-old children (n = 144) with no history of anxiety or depressive disorders completed a passive picture viewing task in which eye-blink startle responses were measured during the presentation of pleasant, neutral, and unpleasant images. Maternal anxiety was associated with distinct patterns of affective modulation of startle in offspring, such that children with maternal histories of anxiety showed potentiation of the startle response while viewing unpleasant images, but not attenuation during pleasant images, whereas children with no maternal history of anxiety exhibited attenuation of the startle response during pleasant images, but did not exhibit unpleasant potentiation - even when controlling for child symptoms of anxiety and depression. No effects of maternal depression or paternal psychopathology were observed. These findings suggest that both enhanced startle responses in unpleasant conditions and failure to inhibit startle responses in pleasant conditions may reflect early emerging vulnerabilities that contribute to the later development of anxiety disorders.
    Psychological Medicine 04/2015; DOI:10.1017/S003329171500063X · 5.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The late positive potential (LPP) is an event-related potential component that is sensitive to the motivational salience of stimuli. Children with a parental history of depression, an indicator of risk, have been found to exhibit an attenuated LPP to emotional stimuli. Research on depressive and anxiety disorders has organized these conditions into two empirical classes: distress and fear disorders. The present study examined whether parental history of distress and fear disorders was associated with the LPP to emotional stimuli in a large sample of adolescent girls. The sample of 550 girls (ages 13.5-15.5 years) with no lifetime history of depression completed an emotional picture-viewing task and the LPP was measured in response to neutral, pleasant and unpleasant pictures. Parental lifetime history of psychopathology was determined via a semi-structured diagnostic interview with a biological parent, and confirmatory factor analysis was used to model distress and fear dimensions. Parental distress risk was associated with an attenuated LPP to all stimuli. In contrast, parental fear risk was associated with an enhanced LPP to unpleasant pictures but was unrelated to the LPP to neutral and pleasant pictures. Furthermore, these results were independent of the adolescent girls' current depression and anxiety symptoms and pubertal status. The present study demonstrates that familial risk for distress and fear disorders may have unique profiles in terms of electrocortical measures of emotional information processing. This study is also one of the first to investigate emotional/motivational processes underlying the distress and fear disorder dimensions.
    Psychological Medicine 04/2015; DOI:10.1017/S0033291715000471 · 5.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroticism and extraversion are multifaceted affective-laden personality traits that have been associated with major depressive disorder (MDD). Research and theory have argued that extraversion, and particularly its facet positive emotionality, is specific to MDD, while neuroticism is common across internalizing disorders. Converging evidence has suggested that MDD is associated with reduced engagement with emotional stimuli, but it remains unclear whether either extraversion, neuroticism, or both modulate reactivity to emotional cues. The late positive potential (LPP) is an event-related brain potential that is uniquely suited to assess engagement with emotional stimuli because it reflects sustained attention toward emotional content. The current study examined the LPP in relation to personality traits that may confer risk for depression by examining the relationship between the LPP and both neuroticism and extraversion in never-depressed adolescent girls. Specifically, 550 girls aged 13.5-15.5 with no lifetime history of depression completed an emotional picture-viewing task, and the LPP was measured in response to neutral, pleasant, and unpleasant pictures. Personality traits were gathered via self- and informant report. Results indicated that high extraversion was associated with a potentiated LPP to emotional pictures-and this effect was accounted for by positive emotionality in particular. In contrast, there was no association between the LPP and neuroticism or its facets. The present study is one of the first to demonstrate that extraversion is associated with variation in neural indices of emotional picture processing, similar to what has been observed among individuals with depression and at high risk for depression. © 2015 Society for Psychophysiological Research.
    Psychophysiology 04/2015; DOI:10.1111/psyp.12436 · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The startle reflex is a robust measure of defense system activation. Startle probes also elicit ERP P300 and N100 responses that capture attentional engagement. The startle probe-elicited P300 and N100 have been primarily examined during affective picture viewing paradigms, and no study has examined these measures in the context of a threat anticipation task or in relation to threat predictability. In the present study, 131 participants completed a no (N), predictable (P), and unpredictable (U) threat-of-shock task, and the startle eye blink reflex, P300, and N100 responses to the startle probe were measured. We also examined several psychometric properties of these psychophysiological measures. Results indicated probe P300 attenuation during the P and U relative to N condition. In contrast, probe N100 enhancement was present only for the U condition. The P300 and N100 decreased (i.e., habituated) at comparable rates across the different threat conditions. The startle reflex also decreased, but only startle during the U (and not P) condition continued to differ from the N condition by the end of the task. Internal consistency of the ERP measures was acceptable and comparable to the startle reflex. Finally, the startle reflex was correlated with the probe N100, but not P300, across threat conditions. This study is one of the first to use startle probe ERPs to demonstrate that a context of potential threat also elicits attentional engagement. Furthermore, this study provides novel evidence that the probe N100 may provide a measure that is uniquely sensitive to unpredictable threat. © 2015 Society for Psychophysiological Research.
    Psychophysiology 02/2015; DOI:10.1111/psyp.12418 · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Considering that anxiety disorders frequently begin before adulthood and often result in chronic impairment, it is important to characterize the developmental pathways leading to the onset of clinical anxiety. Identifying neural biomarkers that can predict the onset of anxiety in childhood may increase our understanding of the etiopathogenesis of anxiety, as well as inform intervention and prevention strategies. An event-related potential (ERP), the error-related negativity (ERN), has been proposed as a biomarker of risk for anxiety and has previously been associated with anxiety in both adults and children. However, no previous study has examined whether the ERN can predict the onset of anxiety disorders. In the current study, ERPs were recorded while 236 healthy children, approximately 6 years of age, performed a go/no-go task to measure the ERN. Three years later, children and parents came back to the lab and completed diagnostic interviews regarding anxiety disorder status. Results indicated that enhanced error-related brain activity at age 6 predicted the onset of new anxiety disorders by age 9, even when controlling for baseline anxiety symptoms and maternal history of anxiety. Considering the potential utility of identifying early biomarkers of risk, this is a novel and important extension of previous work. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2015 APA, all rights reserved).
    Journal of Abnormal Psychology 02/2015; 124(2). DOI:10.1037/abn0000044 · 4.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cognitive processing biases, such as increased attention to threat, are gaining recognition as causal factors in anxiety. Yet, little is known about the anatomical pathway by which threat biases cognition and how genetic factors might influence the integrity of this pathway, and thus, behavior. For 40 normative adults, we reconstructed the entire amygdalo-prefrontal white matter tract (uncinate fasciculus) using diffusion tensor weighted MRI and probabilistic tractography to test the hypothesis that greater fiber integrity correlates with greater nonconscious attention bias to threat as measured by a backward masked dot-probe task. We used path analysis to investigate the relationship between brain-derived nerve growth factor genotype, uncinate fasciculus integrity, and attention bias behavior. Greater structural integrity of the amygdalo-prefrontal tract correlates with facilitated attention bias to nonconscious threat. Genetic variability associated with brain-derived nerve growth factor appears to influence the microstructure of this pathway and, in turn, attention bias to nonconscious threat. These results suggest that the integrity of amygdalo-prefrontal projections underlie nonconscious attention bias to threat and mediate genetic influence on attention bias behavior. Prefrontal cognition and attentional processing in high bias individuals appear to be heavily influenced by nonconscious threat signals relayed via the uncinate fasciculus.
    Cerebral Cortex 09/2014; 24(9):2249-2257. DOI:10.1093/cercor/bht089 · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) plays a critical role in a number of evaluative processes, including risk assessment. Impaired discrimination between threat and safety is considered a hallmark of clinical anxiety. Here, we investigated the circuit-wide structural and functional mechanisms underlying vmPFC threat-safety assessment in humans. We tested patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD; n = 32, female) and healthy controls (n = 25, age-matched female) on a task that assessed the generalization of conditioned threat during fMRI scanning. The task consisted of seven rectangles of graded widths presented on a screen; only the midsize one was paired with mild electric shock [conditioned stimulus (CS)], while the others, safety cues, systematically varied in width by ±20, 40, and 60% [generalization stimuli (GS)] compared with the CS. We derived an index reflecting vmPFC functioning from the BOLD reactivity on a continuum of threat (CS) to safety (GS least similar to CS); patients with GAD showed less discrimination between threat and safety cues, compared with healthy controls (Greenberg et al., 2013b). Using structural, functional (i.e., resting-state), and diffusion MRI, we measured vmPFC thickness, vmPFC functional connectivity, and vmPFC structural connectivity within the corticolimbic systems. The results demonstrate that all three factors predict individual variability of vmPFC threat assessment in an independent fashion. Moreover, these neural features are also linked to GAD, most likely via an vmPFC fear generalization. Our results strongly suggest that vmPFC threat processing is closely associated with broader corticolimbic circuit anomalies, which may synergistically contribute to clinical anxiety.
    The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 03/2014; 34(11):4043-53. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3372-13.2014 · 6.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the current study, we evaluated the test-retest reliability of amygdala response using an emotional face-matching task that has been widely used to examine pathophysiology and treatment mechanisms in psychiatric populations. Activation within the fusiform face area (FFA) was also examined. Twenty-seven healthy volunteers completed a variation of the face-matching paradigm developed by Hariri et al. (2000) at two time points approximately 90 days apart. Estimates of test-retest reliability of amygdala response to fearful faces were moderate, whereas angry and happy faces showed poor reliability. Test-retest reliability of the FFA was moderate to strong, regardless of facial affect. Collectively, these findings indicate that the reliability of the BOLD MR signal in the amygdala varies substantially by facial affect. Efforts to improve measurement precision, enlarge sample sizes, or increase the number of assessment occasions seem warranted.
    Psychophysiology 10/2013; DOI:10.1111/psyp.12129 · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The current study, which was a reanalysis of previous data, focused on the error-related negativity (ERN)-an event-related potential (ERP) associated with error monitoring-and the feedback negativity (FN)-an ERP associated with reward processing. Two objectives motivated this study: first, to illustrate the relationship between the ERN and anxious symptoms, and the relationship between the FN and depressive symptoms; second, to explore whether the ERN and the FN relate uniquely to anxiety and depression, respectively, in children. EEG was collected from twenty-five 11- to 13-year-old participants (12 female; 23 Caucasian, 1 Asian, 1 of Caucasian and Hispanic ethnicity) during tasks designed to elicit an ERN and an FN. Participants and a parent completed questionnaires assessing the participant's anxious and depressive symptomatology. Increasing anxiety was related to a larger ERN, and increasing depression was related to a smaller FN. Further analysis demonstrated that these relationships remained significant when controlling for the contribution of other variables; that is, the ERN continued to predict anxiety when controlling for the FN and depression, and the FN continued to predict depression when controlling for the ERN and anxiety. Thus, in late childhood and early adolescence, the ERN and the FN appear to relate uniquely to anxious and depressive symptoms, respectively. Although this research is still in early stages, the ERN and the FN have the potential to inform trajectories of risk for anxiety and depression, and could be utilized in clinical settings as cost- and labor-efficient neural biomarkers.
    Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 07/2013; 44(2). DOI:10.1080/15374416.2013.814544 · 1.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Event-related potentials (ERPs) may be particularly useful for examining emotional processing across development. Though a number of ERP components are sensitive to emotional content in adults, previous studies have yet to systematically examine the components sensitive to emotion in children. The current study used temporal-spatial principal components analysis (PCA) to identify ERP components in response to complex emotional images in 9-year-old children. Three components were modulated by emotional content and were similar to those previously observed in adults, including: the early posterior negativity, the P300, and a sustained relative positivity similar to the late positive potential (LPP). Compared to those previously observed in adults, the components sensitive to emotion in children were maximal over more occipital regions and the LPP component appeared to be less protracted in time, perhaps indicative of less elaborative processing of emotional stimuli. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol.
    Developmental Psychobiology 07/2013; 55(5). DOI:10.1002/dev.21058 · 3.16 Impact Factor
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    Organization for Human Brain Mapping; 06/2013
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    ABSTRACT: The startle reflex is attenuated and potentiated when participants are viewing pleasant and unpleasant images, respectively. Research demonstrates that threatening contexts also potentiate startle, but it remains unclear how a threatening context might impact startle modulation to emotional images, especially as a function of trait anxiety. The present study measured startle reactivity while 43 participants viewed pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral images across conditions of threat-of-shock and safety (i.e., no shock). Compared to neutral images, startle was potentiated during unpleasant images and attenuated during pleasant images. Threat-of-shock potentiated startle during all picture types, suggesting that threat-of-shock broadly sensitized the defensive system but did not change affective modulation of startle. Lastly, higher levels of trait anxiety were associated with less startle potentiation during unpleasant images across both conditions-a finding in line with previous research demonstrating deficient threat mobilization in response to unpleasant stimuli among highly anxious individuals.
    Biological psychology 05/2013; 94(1). DOI:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.05.013 · 3.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Anxiety disorders are the most frequently diagnosed form of psychopathology in children and often result in chronic impairment that persists into adulthood. Identifying neurobehavioral correlates of anxiety that appear relatively early in life would inform etiological models of development and allow intervention and prevention strategies to be implemented more effectively. The error-related negativity (ERN), a negative deflection in the event-related potential at fronto-central sites approximately 50 ms following the commission of errors, has been consistently found to be larger among anxious adults. The current study sought to extend these findings to even younger individuals: the ERN was elicited by a Go/NoGo task in 48 six year-old children with a clinical anxiety disorder assessed by diagnostic interview and 48 age-matched controls. In addition to child anxiety disorder, the ERN was examined in relation to maternal history of anxiety disorder, which was previously related to a smaller ERN. Anxious children were characterized by a larger (i.e., more negative) ERN and maternal history of anxiety disorder was associated with a smaller ERN. Thus, the relationship between an increased ERN and clinical anxiety is evident by age 6, and this effect appears independent from an opposing influence of maternal anxiety history on the ERN. These findings support the ERN as a promising neurobehavioral marker of anxiety, and implications are discussed.
    Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 05/2013; 41(8). DOI:10.1007/s10802-013-9762-8 · 3.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by sustained anxiety, hypervigilance for potential threat, and hyperarousal. These symptoms may enhance self-perception of one's actions, particularly the detection of errors, which may threaten safety. The error-related negativity (ERN) is an electrocortical response to the commission of errors, and previous studies have shown that other anxiety disorders associated with exaggerated anxiety and enhanced action monitoring exhibit an enhanced ERN. However, little is known about how traumatic experience and PTSD would affect the ERN. To address this gap, we measured the ERN in returning Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) veterans with combat-related PTSD (PTSD group), combat-exposed OEF/OIF veterans without PTSD [combat-exposed control (CEC) group], and non-traumatized healthy participants [healthy control (HC) group]. Event-related potential and behavioral measures were recorded while 16 PTSD patients, 18 CEC, and 16 HC participants completed an arrow version of the flanker task. No difference in the magnitude of the ERN was observed between the PTSD and HC groups; however, in comparison with the PTSD and HC groups, the CEC group displayed a blunted ERN response. These findings suggest that (1) combat trauma itself does not affect the ERN response; (2) PTSD is not associated with an abnormal ERN response; and (3) an attenuated ERN in those previously exposed to combat trauma but who have not developed PTSD may reflect resilience to the disorder, less motivation to do the task, or a decrease in the significance or meaningfulness of 'errors,' which could be related to combat experience.
    Psychiatry Research Neuroimaging 05/2013; 213(1). DOI:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.01.002 · 2.83 Impact Factor
  • Jennifer N Bress, Greg Hajcak
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    ABSTRACT: Rewards are integral to learning associations that aid in survival. The feedback negativity (FN), an event-related potential that differentiates outcomes indicating monetary losses versus gains, has recently emerged as a possible neural measure of reward processing. If this view is correct, then the FN should correlate with measures of reward sensitivity in other domains, although few studies have investigated this question. In the current study, 46 participants completed a self-report measure of reward responsiveness, a signal detection task that generated a behavioral measure of reward sensitivity, and a gambling task that elicited an FN. Consistent with the view that the FN reflects reward-related neural activity, a larger FN correlated with increased behavioral and self-report measures of sensitivity to reward.
    Psychophysiology 05/2013; 50(7). DOI:10.1111/psyp.12053 · 3.18 Impact Factor
  • Dan Foti, Roman Kotov, Greg Hajcak
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    ABSTRACT: Psychotic disorders are characterized by profoundly blunted neural responses to errors, as indicated by reductions in two event-related potential (ERP) components: the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe). The potential utility of the ERN and Pe as biomarkers for psychotic disorders is currently limited, however, by an incomplete understanding of their psychometric properties. To address this gap in the literature, we considered the reliability and validity of these measures in both healthy individuals (n = 52) and patients with psychotic illness (n = 84) across two experimental paradigms that have been used in previous studies in schizophrenia: a flankers task and a picture/word matching task. Internal consistency reliability was higher on the flankers compared to the picture/word task overall. On the flankers task, fair internal consistency was achieved among patients with relatively few trials (ERN = five trials, Pe = 12 trials). The number of available error trials influenced reliability among patients more than among healthy individuals, and on the picture/word task more than the flankers task. Moderate convergent validity for the ERN and Pe was observed across tasks in both the patient and healthy groups. ERPs on the flankers task exhibited external validity, and were related to several clinical characteristics, including diagnosis, negative symptom severity, rehospitalization, employment, and neuroticism; associations with the picture/word task were generally weaker. These data indicate that task differences can strongly affect psychometric properties of error-related neural activity indices in healthy and patient populations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).
    Journal of Abnormal Psychology 05/2013; 122(2):520-531. DOI:10.1037/a0032618 · 4.86 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

7k Citations
533.53 Total Impact Points


  • 2007–2015
    • Stony Brook University
      • Department of Psychology
      Stony Brook, New York, United States
    • VU University Amsterdam
      • Department of Cognitive Psychology
      Amsterdamo, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 2009
    • Stony Brook University Hospital
      Stony Brook, New York, United States
  • 2002–2008
    • University of Delaware
      • Department of Psychology
      Newark, DE, United States
  • 2005
    • University of Pennsylvania
      • Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States