Category: Translational


Exploring the Boundaries of Postretrieval Extinction in Anxious Individuals

Sunday, November 19
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom I & J, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Translational Research | Fear | Anxiety
Presentation Type: Symposium

Translational research examining extinction of de novo fears in conditioning paradigms shows that memory reactivation coupled with extinction (termed, post-retrieval extinction: PRE) can be used to enhance resistance to relapse (Kredlow et al., 2016). Some have questioned whether there are boundary conditions to these PRE benefits. In the current study, we examined whether PRE is effective when applied in an anxious population (previous studies utilized healthy samples). Anxious individuals were randomized to: 1) PRE after one day of acquisition (n = 15), 2) extinction (E) after one day of acquisition (n = 14). During acquisition, one stimulus (CS+) was followed by the unconditioned stimulus (UCS; electric stimulation plus a scream noise) on 60% of trials, and one stimulus (CS-) was not. For the PRE condition, one CS+ was presented, followed by a 10 minute break, and then extinction procedures. Return of fear was assessed after a reinstatement probe (presentation of the UCS). Preliminary analyses failed to confirm a consistent benefit for PRE over E. A small and non-significant effect favoring PRE over E (d = 0.30, p = .43) was found for return of fear, as assessed by skin conductance response (SCR) to the CS+, that was consistent with the overall small-moderate effect documented in our meta-analysis (Kredlow et al., 2016). However, the effect size for return of fear as assessed by differential SCR was small and non-significant in the opposite direction, favoring E over PRE (d = -0.26, p = .48). Different effect directions have been observed for anxiety patients relative to healthy samples for reactivity to the threat cue (evaluation of SCR to CS+) relative to discriminative learning (differential SCR, CS+ - CS-) (Lissek et al., 2005), and we will discuss these results in this context. In addition to these findings, we will also present results for PRE as applied after multiple days of acquisition. Lastly, moderator analyses with the complete sample will be presented and discussed with regard to implications for applications of PRE to the clinic.

M. Alexandra Kredlow

Graduate Student
Boston University


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Exploring the Boundaries of Postretrieval Extinction in Anxious Individuals

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