- Deficient safety learning characterizes high trait anxious individuals
- Biological Psychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 92 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Trait anxiety is a well-established risk factor for developing anxiety disorders, but evidence for abnormal associative fear learning in high trait anxious (HTA) individuals is inconclusive. In part, this may due to limitations in the scope and measures used to assess fear learning. The current study therefore assessed fear learning across multiple response domains and multiple test phases in a two-day discriminative fear-conditioning paradigm. We tested whether trait anxiety is associated with deficient safety learning, by comparing HTA individuals (N = 20) and healthy Controls (N = 22). HTA participants showed stronger fear on the startle response and distress ratings to the safety (CS−) but not to the threat stimulus (CS+) during acquisition, along with impaired extinction and re-extinction. Trait anxiety did not affect skin conductance responses and effects on UCS-expectancy were limited. We conclude that high trait anxiety may be characterized by deficient safety learning which in turn may promote persistent and generalized fear responses.
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