Impaired discriminative fear-conditioning resulting from elevated fear responding to learned safety cues among individuals with panic disorder

Shmuel Lissek, Stephanie J. Rabin, Dana J. McDowell, Sharone Dvir, Daniel E. Bradford, Marilla Geraci, Daniel S. Pine, Christian Grillon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

170 Scopus citations

Abstract

Classical fear-conditioning is central to many etiologic accounts of panic disorder (PD), but few lab-based conditioning studies in PD have been conducted. One conditioning perspective proposes associative-learning deficits characterized by deficient safety learning among PD patients. The current study of PD assesses acquisition and retention of discriminative aversive conditioning using a fear-potentiated startle paradigm. This paradigm was chosen for its specific capacity to independently assess safety- and danger learning in the service of characterizing putative anomalies in each type of learning among those with PD. Though no group difference in fear-potentiated startle was found at retention, acquisition results demonstrate impaired discriminative learning among PD patients as indexed by measures of conditioned startle-potentiation to learned safety and danger cues. Importantly, this discrimination deficit was driven by enhanced startle-potentiation to the learned safety cue rather than aberrant reactivity to the danger cue. Consistent with this finding, PD patients relative to healthy individuals reported higher expectancies of dangerous outcomes in the presence of the safety cue, but equal danger expectancies during exposure to the danger cue. Such results link PD to impaired discrimination learning, reflecting elevated fear responding to learned safety cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-118
Number of pages8
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Keywords

  • Classical fear-conditioning
  • Fear-potentiated startle
  • Panic disorder
  • Psychophysiology
  • Safety learning
  • Stimulus generalization

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Impaired discriminative fear-conditioning resulting from elevated fear responding to learned safety cues among individuals with panic disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this