Fear conditioning in adolescents with anxiety disorders: results from a novel experimental paradigm.

Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program, National Institute of Mental Health /National Institutes of Health, 15K North Drive, MSC 2670, Bethesda, MD 20892-2670, USA.
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 6.97). 02/2008; 47(1):94-102. DOI: 10.1097/chi.0b01e31815a5f01
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Considerable research examines fear conditioning in adult anxiety disorders but few studies examine youths. Adult data suggest that anxiety disorders involve elevated fear but intact differential conditioning. We used a novel paradigm to assess fear conditioning in pediatric anxiety patients.
Sixteen individuals with anxiety disorders and 38 healthy comparisons viewed two photographs of actresses displaying neutral expressions. One picture served as the conditioned stimulus (CS), paired with a fearful expression and a shrieking scream (CS+), whereas the other picture served as a CS unpaired with the aversive outcome (CS-). Conditioning was indexed by self-reported fear. Subjects participated in two visits involving conditioning and extinction trials.
Both groups developed greater fear of the CS+ relative to CS-. Higher fear levels collapsed across each CS characterized anxious relative to healthy subjects, but no significant interaction between group and stimulus type emerged. Fear levels at visit 1 predicted avoidance of visit 2. Fear levels to both CS types showed stability even after extinction.
Consistent with adult data, pediatric anxiety involves higher fear levels following conditioning but not greater differential conditioning. Extending these methods to neuroimaging studies may elucidate neural correlates of fear conditioning. Implications for exposure therapies are discussed.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The ability to differentiate danger and safety through associative processes emerges early in life. Understanding the mechanisms underlying associative learning of threat and safety can clarify the processes that shape development of normative fears and pathological anxiety. Considerable research has used fear conditioning and extinction paradigms to delineate underlying mechanisms in animals and human adults; however, little is known about these mechanisms in children and adolescents. The current paper summarizes the empirical data on the development of fear conditioning and extinction. It reviews methodological considerations and future directions for research on fear conditioning and extinction in pediatric populations.
    Biological psychology 04/2014; · 4.36 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The transition into and out of adolescence is a unique developmental period during which neuronal circuits are particularly susceptible to modification by experience. Adolescence is associated with an increased incidence of anxiety disorders in humans, and an estimated 75% of adults with fear-related disorders met diagnostic criteria as children and adolescents. Conserved neural circuitry of rodents and humans has facilitated neurodevelopmental studies of behavioral and molecular processes associated with fear learning and memory that lie at the heart of many anxiety disorders. Here, we review the nonlinear developmental aspects of fear learning and memory during a transition period into and out of adolescence and provide a discussion of the molecular mechanisms that may underlie these alterations in behavior. We provide a model that may help to inform novel treatment strategies for children and adolescents with fear-related disorders.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 10/2013; · 4.38 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Anxiety and depression frequently co-occur and may share similar deficits in the processing of emotional stimuli. High anxiety is associated with a failure in the acquisition and extinction of fear conditioning. Despite the supposed common deficits, no research has been conducted on fear acquisition and extinction in depression. The main aim of the present study was to investigate and compare fear acquisition and extinction in anxiety- and depression-prone participants. Non-clinical anxious, depressive, anxious-depressive and control participants performed a fear discrimination task. During acquisition, the CS+ predicted an aversive event (unconditioned stimulus, US) and the CS- safety (no US). During extinction, the CS+ was no longer followed by the US, rendering it (temporarily) into a safety signal. On each CS participants rated their US expectancy; skin conductance responses (SCRs) were measured throughout. The expectancy scores indicated that high anxiety resulted in less safety learning during acquisition and extinction; no effect of depression was observed. SCRs showed that high-anxiety persons displayed less discrimination learning (CS+ minus CS - ) during acquisition than low-anxiety persons. During extinction, high-depression persons demonstrated more discriminative SCR than low-depression persons. The observed discrepancies in response patterns of high-anxiety and -depression persons seem to indicate distinctive information processing of emotional stimuli.
    Memory 03/2014; · 2.09 Impact Factor


Available from
May 21, 2014