Human Fear Conditioning and Extinction in Neuroimaging: A Systematic Review

Department of Psychiatry, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.53). 02/2009; 4(6):e5865. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005865
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Fear conditioning and extinction are basic forms of associative learning that have gained considerable clinical relevance in enhancing our understanding of anxiety disorders and facilitating their treatment. Modern neuroimaging techniques have significantly aided the identification of anatomical structures and networks involved in fear conditioning. On closer inspection, there is considerable variation in methodology and results between studies. This systematic review provides an overview of the current neuroimaging literature on fear conditioning and extinction on healthy subjects, taking into account methodological issues such as the conditioning paradigm. A Pubmed search, as of December 2008, was performed and supplemented by manual searches of bibliographies of key articles. Two independent reviewers made the final study selection and data extraction. A total of 46 studies on cued fear conditioning and/or extinction on healthy volunteers using positron emission tomography or functional magnetic resonance imaging were reviewed. The influence of specific experimental factors, such as contingency and timing parameters, assessment of conditioned responses, and characteristics of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli, on cerebral activation patterns was examined. Results were summarized descriptively. A network consisting of fear-related brain areas, such as amygdala, insula, and anterior cingulate cortex, is activated independently of design parameters. However, some neuroimaging studies do not report these findings in the presence of methodological heterogeneities. Furthermore, other brain areas are differentially activated, depending on specific design parameters. These include stronger hippocampal activation in trace conditioning and tactile stimulation. Furthermore, tactile unconditioned stimuli enhance activation of pain related, motor, and somatosensory areas. Differences concerning experimental factors may partly explain the variance between neuroimaging investigations on human fear conditioning and extinction and should, therefore, be taken into serious consideration in the planning and the interpretation of research projects.

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a frequent anxiety disorder with higher prevalence rates in female patients than in male patients (2.5:1). Association with a single nucleotide polymorphism (rs2267735) in the gene ADCYAP1R1 encoding the type I receptor (PAC1-R) of the pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide has been reported with PTSD in female patients. We sought to identify the neural correlates of the described PAC1-R effects on associative learning. In a reverse genetic approach, we examined two independent healthy samples (N1 = 112, N2 = 73) using functional magnetic resonance imaging during cued and contextual fear conditioning. Skin conductance responses and verbal self-reports of arousal, valence, and contingency were recorded. We found that PAC1-R modulates the blood oxygenation level-dependent response of the hippocampus. Specifically, we observed decreased hippocampal activity during contextual, but not during cued, fear conditioning in female participants carrying the PAC1-R risk allele. We observed no significant differences in conditionability for skin conductance responses, verbal reports, or activation in other brain regions between the genotype groups in female participants. Our results suggest that impaired contextual conditioning in the hippocampal formation may mediate the association between PAC1-R and PTSD symptoms. Our findings potentially identify a missing link between the involvement of PAC1-R in PTSD and the well-established structural and functional hippocampal deficits in these patients. Copyright © 2015 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Biological Psychiatry 01/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.12.018 · 9.47 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Aversive stimuli not only support fear conditioning to their environmental antecedents, they also punish behaviors that cause their occurrence. The amygdala, especially the basolateral nucleus (BLA), has been critically implicated in Pavlovian fear learning but its role in punishment remains poorly understood. Here, we used a within-subjects punishment task to assess the role of the BLA in the acquisition and expression of punishment as well as aversive choice. Rats that pressed two individually presented levers for pellet rewards rapidly suppressed responding to one lever if it also caused footshock deliveries (punished lever) but continued pressing a second lever that did not cause footshock (unpunished lever). Infusions of GABA agonists baclofen and muscimol (BM) into the BLA significantly impaired the acquisition of this suppression. BLA inactivations using BM also reduced the expression of well-trained punishment. There was anatomical segregation within the BLA so that caudal, not rostral, BLA was implicated in punishment. However, when presented with punished and unpunished levers simultaneously in a choice test without deliveries of shock punisher, rats expressed a preference for unpunished over the punished lever and BLA inactivations had no effect on this preference. Taken together, these findings indicate that the BLA is important for both the acquisition and expression of punishment but not for aversive choice. This role appears to be linked to neurons in the caudal BLA, rather than rostral BLA, although the circuitry that contributes to this functional segregation is currently unknown, and is most parsimoniously interpreted as a role for caudal BLA in determining the aversive value of the shock punisher. © 2015 Jean-Richard-Dit-Bressel and McNally; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
    Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.) 02/2015; 22(2):128-37. DOI:10.1101/lm.035907.114 · 4.08 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Recent neuropsychological theories emphasize the influence of maladaptive learning and memory processes on pain perception. However, the precise relationship between these processes as well as the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood; especially the role of perceptual discrimination and its modulation by associative fear learning has received little attention so far. Experimental work with exteroceptive stimuli consistently points to effects of fear learning on perceptual discrimination acuity. In addition, clinical observations have revealed that in individuals with chronic pain perceptual discrimination is impaired, and that tactile discrimination training reduces pain. Based on these findings, we present a theoretical model of which the central tenet is that associative fear learning contributes to the development of chronic pain through impaired interoceptive and proprioceptive discrimination acuity.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 01/2015; in press. DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.01.009 · 10.28 Impact Factor

Full-text (3 Sources)

Available from
May 22, 2014