Keywords: Fear | Translational Research | PTSD
Presentation Type: Symposium
Memory reconsolidation may provide a way to enhance learning that occurs during fear extinction (Nader & Hardt, 2009), yet certain boundary conditions (e.g., retrieval cue valence) and translation of experimental paradigms to clinical samples remain less clear. In a two-study sequence using a distressing film-fear learning paradigm, we explored patterns of extinction and the extension of reconsolidation methods to individuals with current psychopathology. Participants viewed a distressing film segment (fear acquisition) and were then randomized to some variation of retrieval + extinction condition or to a control condition 48 hr later. Intrusions were assessed 24 hr following acquisition and extinction.
In Study 1, we systematically explored trajectories of extinction following either negative, neutral or delayed retrieval cues. Participants were 168 undergraduates. A neutral retrieval cue was more effective than a negative cue in reducing intrusion frequency (t(163) = 4.18, p = .04, d = 0.89). Notably, higher peak distress during extinction predicted more frequent (r = .22) and distressing (r = .49) intrusions regardless of reconsolidation condition, arguing that inadequate extinction may have mitigated retrieval cue effects. Subsequently, in Study 2, we altered extinction procedures, forming 3 extinction conditions: extinction using the full acquisition clip, extinction of most disturbing parts only, and a control condition where extinction did not occur. Preliminary findings from Study 2 using a clinical sample with PTSD and/or MDD will also be presented.
While moderators of reconsolidation are emerging in basic fear learning paradigms (Kredlow et al., 2016), trajectories of distress during extinction may influence reconsolidation processes with complex, fear-relevant stimuli and in clinical samples. Ultimately, understanding where reconsolidation may enhance learning during exposure-based treatments is critical; yet, real world clinical exposure is often “messier” than controlled laboratory settings and there may be particular areas (e.g., emotional engagement, change in distress) where the highest likelihood of enhanced postretrieval learning may lie.
University of Washington
Sunday, November 19
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM
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