Oscillatory and non-oscillatory brain activity reflects fear expression in an immediate and delayed fear extinction task

Autor(en): Bierwirth, Philipp
Antov, Martin I. I.
Stockhorst, Ursula 
Stichwörter: ACQUISITION; ACTIVATION; ATTENTION; BAND OSCILLATIONS; BASOLATERAL AMYGDALA; CIRCUITS; CONFIDENCE-INTERVALS; EEG; EXTINGUISHED FEAR; fear conditioning; fear extinction; immediate extinction deficit; MEDIAL PREFRONTAL CORTEX; Neurosciences; Neurosciences & Neurology; oscillation detection; Physiology; POWER SPECTRA; Psychology; Psychology, Biological; Psychology, Experimental; theta oscillations
Erscheinungsdatum: 2023
Herausgeber: WILEY
Band: 60
Ausgabe: 8
Fear extinction is pivotal for inhibiting fear responding to former threat-predictive stimuli. In rodents, short intervals between fear acquisition and extinction impair extinction recall compared to long intervals. This is called Immediate Extinction Deficit (IED). Importantly, human studies of the IED are sparse and its neurophysiological correlates have not been examined in humans. We, therefore, investigated the IED by recording electroencephalography (EEG), skin conductance responses (SCRs), an electrocardiogram (ECG), and subjective ratings of valence and arousal. Forty male participants were randomly assigned to extinction learning either 10 min after fear acquisition (immediate extinction) or 24 h afterward (delayed extinction). Fear and extinction recall were assessed 24 h after extinction learning. We observed evidence for an IED in SCR responses, but not in the ECG, subjective ratings, or in any assessed neurophysiological marker of fear expression. Irrespective of extinction timing (immediate vs. delayed), fear conditioning caused a tilt of the non-oscillatory background spectrum with decreased low-frequency power (<30 Hz) for threat-predictive stimuli. When controlling for this tilt, we observed a suppression of theta and alpha oscillations to threat-predictive stimuli, especially pronounced during fear acquisition. In sum, our data show that delayed extinction might be partially advantageous over immediate extinction in reducing sympathetic arousal (as assessed via SCR) to former threat-predictive stimuli. However, this effect was limited to SCR responses since all other fear measures were not affected by extinction timing. Additionally, we demonstrate that oscillatory and non-oscillatory activity is sensitive to fear conditioning, which has important implications for fear conditioning studies examining neural oscillations.
ISSN: 0048-5772
DOI: 10.1111/psyp.14283

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