Apr 15, 2017

Active Avoidance: Neural Mechanisms and Attenuation of Pavlovian Conditioned Responding

The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Emily BoekeCatherine A Hartley


Patients with anxiety disorders often experience a relapse in symptoms after exposure therapy. Similarly, threat responses acquired during Pavlovian threat conditioning often return after extinction learning. Accordingly, there is a need for alternative methods to persistently reduce threat responding. Studies in rodents have suggested that exercising behavioral control over an aversive stimulus can persistently diminish threat responses, and that these effects are mediated by the amygdala, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and striatum. In this fMRI study, we attempted to translate these findings to humans. Subjects first underwent threat conditioning. We then contrasted two forms of safety learning: active avoidance, in which participants could prevent the shock through an action, and yoked extinction, with shock presentation matched to the active condition, but without instrumental control. The following day, we assessed subjects' threat responses (measured by skin conductance) to the conditioned stimuli without shock. Subjects next underwent threat conditioning with novel stimuli. Yoked extinction subjects showed an increase in conditioned response to stimuli from the previous day, but the active avoidance group did not. Addi...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Striatonigral Degeneration, Infantile (Disorder)
Avoidance Learning
Adrenal Cortex Diseases
Prefrontal Cortex
Learning Extinction
Research Subject

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