Circadian rhythms have received increasing attention within the context of mental disorders. Evening chronotype has been associated with enhanced risk to develop anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The classical fear conditioning paradigm is a powerful tool to reveal key mechanisms of anxiety and PTSD. We used this paradigm to study the neurocognitive basis of the association between chronotype and fear responses in healthy humans. 20 participants with evening chronotype and 20 controls (i.e., intermediate chronotype) completed a 2-day Pavlovian fear learning and extinction virtual reality task. Participants received fear conditioning, and extinction learning on day 1. Extinction memory recall was tested on day 2. To address interactions between chronotype and time of day of the fear conditioning, and extinction performance, half of the participants were tested in the morning, and the other half in the evening. Skin conductance response (SCR) and subjective fear ratings were measured as primary outcomes. Chronotype was established via the morningness–eveningness questionnaire (MEQ). We found an overall higher SCR for fear acquisition in participants with the evening chronotype profile, compared to controls. Moreover, the higher the MEQ scores –indicative of less eveningness – the lower the SCR was. No effects of chronotype were found for extinction and extinction recall. The higher vulnerability of the evening chronotype for anxiety and related disorders may thus be explained by enhanced fear acquisition of this group.

Enhanced fear acquisition in individuals with evening chronotype. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study

Avenanti A.
Penultimo
;
2022

Abstract

Circadian rhythms have received increasing attention within the context of mental disorders. Evening chronotype has been associated with enhanced risk to develop anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The classical fear conditioning paradigm is a powerful tool to reveal key mechanisms of anxiety and PTSD. We used this paradigm to study the neurocognitive basis of the association between chronotype and fear responses in healthy humans. 20 participants with evening chronotype and 20 controls (i.e., intermediate chronotype) completed a 2-day Pavlovian fear learning and extinction virtual reality task. Participants received fear conditioning, and extinction learning on day 1. Extinction memory recall was tested on day 2. To address interactions between chronotype and time of day of the fear conditioning, and extinction performance, half of the participants were tested in the morning, and the other half in the evening. Skin conductance response (SCR) and subjective fear ratings were measured as primary outcomes. Chronotype was established via the morningness–eveningness questionnaire (MEQ). We found an overall higher SCR for fear acquisition in participants with the evening chronotype profile, compared to controls. Moreover, the higher the MEQ scores –indicative of less eveningness – the lower the SCR was. No effects of chronotype were found for extinction and extinction recall. The higher vulnerability of the evening chronotype for anxiety and related disorders may thus be explained by enhanced fear acquisition of this group.
2022
Lucifora C.; Grasso G.M.; Nitsche M.A.; D'Italia G.; Sortino M.; Salehinejad M.A.; Falzone A.; Avenanti A.; Vicario C.M.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/899981
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