Fear conditioning in adolescents with anxiety disorders: Results from a novel experimental paradigm

Jennifer Y.F. Lau, Shmuel Lissek, Eric E. Nelson, Yoon Lee, Roxann Roberson-Nay, Kaitlin Poeth, Jessica Jenness, Monique Ernst, Christian Grillon, Daniel S. Pine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Considerable research examines fear conditioning in adult anxiety disorders but few studies examine youths. Adult data suggest that anxiety disorders involve elevated fear but intact differential conditioning. We used a novel paradigm to assess fear conditioning in pediatric anxiety patients. METHOD: Sixteen individuals with anxiety disorders and 38 healthy comparisons viewed two photographs of actresses displaying neutral expressions. One picture served as the conditioned stimulus (CS), paired with a fearful expression and a shrieking scream (CS+), whereas the other picture served as a CS unpaired with the aversive outcome (CS-). Conditioning was indexed by self-reported fear. Subjects participated in two visits involving conditioning and extinction trials. RESULTS: Both groups developed greater fear of the CS+ relative to CS-. Higher fear levels collapsed across each CS characterized anxious relative to healthy subjects, but no significant interaction between group and stimulus type emerged. Fear levels at visit 1 predicted avoidance of visit 2. Fear levels to both CS types showed stability even after extinction. CONCLUSIONS: Consistent with adult data, pediatric anxiety involves higher fear levels following conditioning but not greater differential conditioning. Extending these methods to neuroimaging studies may elucidate neural correlates of fear conditioning. Implications for exposure therapies are discussed. Copyright 2008

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-102
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Extinction
  • Fear conditioning
  • Pediatric anxiety disorders


Dive into the research topics of 'Fear conditioning in adolescents with anxiety disorders: Results from a novel experimental paradigm'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this