Postural freezing relates to startle potentiation in a human fear-conditioning paradigm
Number of pages
SourcePsychophysiology, 59, 4, (2022), article e13983
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
PI Group Affective Neuroscience
Subject230 Affective Neuroscience; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Freezing to impending threat is a core defensive response. It has been studied primarily using fear conditioning in non-human animals, thwarting advances in translational human anxiety research that has used other indices, such as skin conductance responses. Here we examine postural freezing as a human conditioning index for translational anxiety research. We employed a mixed cued/contextual fear-conditioning paradigm where one context signals the occurrence of the US upon the presentation of the CS, and another context signals that the CS is not followed by the US. Critically, during the following generalization phase, the CS is presented in a third and novel context. We show that human freezing is highly sensitive to fear conditioning, generalizes to ambiguous contexts, and amplifies with threat imminence. Intriguingly, stronger parasympathetically driven freezing under threat, but not sympathetically mediated skin conductance, predicts subsequent startle magnitude. These results demonstrate that humans show fear-conditioned animal-like freezing responses, known to aid in active preparation for unexpected attack, and that freezing captures real-life anxiety expression. Conditioned freezing offers a promising new, non-invasive, and continuous, readout for human fear conditioning, paving the way for future translational studies into human fear and anxiety.
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