The effect of glucose on hippocampal-dependent contextual fear conditioning

Biological Psychiatry
Daniel E GlennMichelle G Craske


The metabolic challenge of trauma disrupts hippocampal functioning, which is necessary for processing the complex co-occurring elements comprising the traumatic context. Poor contextual memory of trauma may subsequently contribute to intrusive memories and overgeneralization of fear. Glucose consumption following trauma may be a means to protect hippocampal functioning and contextual fear learning. This study experimentally examined the effect of glucose on hippocampal-dependent contextual learning versus cued fear learning in humans. Forty-two male participants underwent cued conditioning with an unconditional stimulus (US) (shock) paired with a discrete conditional stimulus (geometric shape) and context conditioning (requiring hippocampal processing) with a US unpredictably paired with a background context (picture of room). Participants were then blindly randomized to consume either a 25 g glucose or sweet-tasting placebo drink and returned for a test phase 24 hours later. Measures included acoustic startle response, US expectancy, blood glucose levels, and arousal ratings. The glucose group showed superior retention of hippocampal-dependent contextual learning at test relative to the placebo group, as demonstrated by acoust...Continue Reading


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