Psychophysiological and subjective indicators of aversive pavlovian conditioning in generalized social phobia
ABSTRACT Aversive conditioning has been proposed as an important etiologic mechanism in social phobia; however, empirical evidence is scarce and has not relied on a detailed analysis of the acquisition and extinction of the conditioned emotional response. Fourteen men sustaining generalized social phobia and 19 healthy control subjects participated in differential aversive conditioning with two neutral faces as conditioned stimuli and an aversive odor as unconditioned stimulus. Subjective and peripheral physiological responses were obtained. Both groups were successfully conditioned as reflected by differential subjective (valence, arousal, subjective unconditioned stimulus expectancy) and peripheral physiological responses (skin conductance, startle response). There was no evidence for an enhanced conditionability in the social phobics; however, they showed an enhanced unconditioned stimulus expectancy, especially for the nonreinforced conditioned stimuli during acquisition, and a delayed extinction of the conditioned skin conductance response as well as a certain dissociation between subjective and physiological responses.The enhanced unconditioned stimulus expectancy during acquisition and the overall elevated subjective arousal suggest that, under threat, subjects with generalized social phobia may be more prone to associate neutral social cues and an aversive outcome. Furthermore, delayed extinction of the conditioned response seems to contribute to the etiology and maintenance of generalized social phobia.
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ABSTRACT: Relative to healthy controls, anxiety-disorder patients show anomalies in classical conditioning that may either result from, or provide a risk factor for, clinically relevant anxiety. Here, we investigated whether healthy participants with enhanced anxiety vulnerability show abnormalities in a challenging affective-conditioning paradigm, in which many stimulus-reinforcer associations had to be acquired with only few learning trials. Forty-seven high and low trait-anxious females underwent MultiCS conditioning, in which 52 different neutral faces (CS+) were paired with an aversive noise (US), while further 52 faces (CS−) remained unpaired. Emotional learning was assessed by evaluative (rating), behavioral (dot-probe, contingency report), and neurophysiological (magnetoencephalography) measures before, during, and after learning. High and low trait-anxious groups did not differ in evaluative ratings or response priming before or after conditioning. High trait-anxious women, however, were better than low trait-anxious women at reporting CS+/US contingencies after conditioning, and showed an enhanced prefrontal cortex (PFC) activation towards CS+ in the M1 (i.e., 80–117 ms) and M170 time intervals (i.e., 140–160 ms) during acquisition. These effects in MultiCS conditioning observed in individuals with elevated trait anxiety are consistent with theories of enhanced conditionability in anxiety vulnerability. Furthermore, they point towards increased threat monitoring and detection in highly trait-anxious females, possibly mediated by alterations in visual working memory.Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 06/2015; 9:1-19. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00155 · 4.16 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Several challenges make it difficult to simultaneously investigate central and autonomous nervous system correlates of conditioned stimulus (CS) processing in classical conditioning paradigms. Such challenges include, for example, the discrepant requirements of electroencephalography (EEG) and electrodermal activity (EDA) recordings with regard to multiple repetitions of conditions and sufficient trial duration. Here, we propose a MultiCS conditioning set-up, in which we increased the number of CSs, decreased the number of learning trials, and used trials of short and long durations for meeting requirements of simultaneous EEG-EDA recording in a differential aversive conditioning task. Forty-eight participants underwent MultiCS conditioning, in which four neutral faces (CS+) were paired four times each with aversive electric stimulation (UCS) during acquisition, while four different neutral faces (CS-) remained unpaired. When comparing after relative to before learning measurements, EEG revealed an enhanced centro-posterior positivity to CS+ vs. CS- during 368 to 600 ms, and subjective ratings indicated CS+ to be less pleasant and more arousing than CS-. Furthermore, changes in CS valence and arousal were strong enough to bias subjective ratings when faces of CS+/CS- identity were displayed with different emotional expression (happy, angry) in a post-experimental behavioral task. In contrast to a persistent neural and evaluative CS+/CS- differentiation that sustained multiple unreinforced CS presentations, electrodermal differentiation was rapidly extinguished. Current results suggest that MultiCS conditioning provides a promising paradigm for investigating pre-post learning changes under minimal influences of extinction and overlearning of simple stimulus features. Our data also revealed methodological pitfalls, such as the possibility of occurring artifacts when combining different acquisition systems for central and peripheral psychophysiological measures.Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 06/2015; 9(Article 336):1-14. DOI:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00336 · 2.90 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) is thought to attenuate anxiety by dampening amygdala reactivity to threat in individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder (GSAD). Because the brain is organized into networks of interconnected areas, it is likely that OXT impacts functional coupling between the amygdala and other socio-emotional areas of the brain. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to examine the effects of OXT on amygdala functional connectivity during the processing of fearful faces in GSAD subjects and healthy controls. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects design, 18 healthy controls and 17 GSAD subjects performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) task designed to probe amygdala response to fearful faces following acute intranasal administration of placebo or OXT. Functional connectivity between the amygdala and the rest of the brain was compared between OXT and placebo sessions using generalized psychophysiological interaction (gPPI) analyses. Results indicated that within individuals with GSAD, but not healthy controls, OXT enhanced functional connectivity between the amygdala and the bilateral insula and middle cingulate/dorsal anterior cingulate gyrus during the processing of fearful faces. These findings suggest that OXT may have broad pro-social implications such as enhancing the integration and modulation of social responses.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 07 July 2014; doi:10.1038/npp.2014.168.Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 07/2014; 40(2). DOI:10.1038/npp.2014.168 · 7.83 Impact Factor