Extinction in Human Fear Conditioning

Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, United States
Biological Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 10.26). 09/2006; 60(4):361-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.10.006
Source: PubMed


Although most extinction research is conducted in animal laboratories, the study of extinction learning in human fear conditioning has gained increasing attention over the last decade. The most important findings from human fear extinction are reviewed in this article. Specifically, we review experimental investigations of the impact of conditioned inhibitors, conditioned exciters, context renewal, and reinstatement on fear extinction in human samples. We discuss data from laboratory studies of the extinction of aversively conditioned stimuli, as well as results from experimental clinical work with fearful or anxious individuals. We present directions for future research, in particular the need for further investigation of differences between animal and human conditioning outcomes, and research examining the role of both automatic and higher-order cognitive processes in human conditioning and extinction.

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    • "Conditional fear can be extinguished with repeated presentation of the CS in the absence of the 272 US, ultimately resulting in a reduction of CRs. Extinction, however, is highly susceptible to 273 various forms of relapse as indexed by increased conditioning responding with the passage of 274 time (spontaneous recovery), the presentation of an unsignaled US (reinstatement), upon 275 encountering the CS in a non-extinguished context (renewal), (Bouton, 2000;Goode & Maren, 276 2014;Hermans, Craske, Mineka, & Lovibond, 2006;Maren et al., 2013;Vervliet, Craske, & 277 Hermans, 2013), and relapse can be promoted by psychological stress (Maren & Holmes, 2015). "
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    ABSTRACT: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been described as the only neuropsychiatric disorder with a known cause, yet effective behavioral and pharmacotherapies remain elusive for many afflicted individuals. PTSD is characterized by heightened noradrenergic signaling, as well as a resistance to extinction learning. Research aimed at promoting more effective treatment of PTSD has focused on memory erasure (disrupting reconsolidation) and/or enhancing extinction retention through pharmacological manipulations. Propranolol, a β-adrenoceptor antagonist, has received considerable attention for its therapeutic potential in PTSD, although its impact on patients is not always effective. In this review, we briefly examine the consequences of β-noradrenergic manipulations on both reconsolidation and extinction learning in rodents and in humans. We suggest that propranolol is effective as a fear-reducing agent when paired with behavioral therapy soon after trauma when psychological stress is high, possibly preventing or dampening the later development of PTSD. In individuals who have already suffered from PTSD for a significant period of time, propranolol may be less effective at disrupting reconsolidation of strong fear memories. Also, when PTSD has already developed, chronic treatment with propranolol may be more effective than acute intervention, given that individuals with PTSD tend to experience long-term, elevated noradrenergic hyperarousal.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
    • ". The experimental trials were divided into four phases : acquisition , extinction , reinstatement , and test ( see Table 1 ) ; these phases were run after four pre - experimental phases : preparation , practice and startle probe habituation and sound - US familiarization . This general design was consistent with past human reinstatement studies ( Hermans et al . , 2005 ; LaBar & Phelps , 2005 ; Norrholm et al . , 2006 ) ."

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    • "on this result we suggest that the reduction of the return of fear caused by GE is not restricted to animals but can also be seen at least partly in humans , too . This is an important issue when considering the transfer of results from laboratory research to clinical practice . Extinction serves as the laboratory counterpart of exposure therapy ( Hermans et al . , 2006 ) . Replication of this effect in further studies could have major implications for the practical treatment of fear related disorder . For example , in social phobia one method is exposure in which a patient is asked to hold a public speech in front of an audience ( Anderson et al . , 2005 ) . An incorporation of gradual exposure may su"
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    ABSTRACT: The current study investigated whether gradually reducing the frequency of aversive stimuli during extinction can prevent the return of fear. Thirty-one participants of a three-stage procedure (acquisition, extinction and a reinstatement test on day 2) were randomly assigned to a standard extinction (SE) and gradual extinction (GE) procedure. The two groups differed only in the extinction procedure. While the SE group ran through a regular extinction process without any negative events, the frequency of the aversive stimuli during the extinction phase was gradually reduced for the GE group. The unconditioned stimulus (US) was an air blast (5 bar, 10 ms). A spider and a scorpion were used as conditioned stimuli (CS). The outcome variables were contingency ratings and physiological measures (skin conductance response, SCR and startle response). There were no differences found between the two groups for the acquisition and extinction phases concerning contingency ratings, SCR, or startle response. GE compared to SE significantly reduced the return of fear in the reinstatement test for the startle response but not for SCR or contingency ratings. This study was successful in translating the findings in rodent to humans. The results suggest that the GE process is suitable for increasing the efficacy of fear extinction.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
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