Sleep deprivation increases threat beliefs in human fear conditioning

Ann-Kathrin Zenses, Bert Lenaert, Philippe Peigneux, Tom Beckers, Yannick Boddez*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Sleep disturbances and anxiety disorders exhibit high comorbidity levels, but it remains unclear whether sleep problems are causes or consequences of increased anxiety. To experimentally probe the aetiological role of sleep disturbances in anxiety, we investigated in healthy participants how total sleep deprivation influences fear expression in a conditioning paradigm. In a fear conditioning procedure, one face stimulus (conditioned stimulus [CS+]) was paired with electric shock, whereas another face stimulus was not (unpaired stimulus [CS-]). Fear expression was tested the next morning using the two face stimuli from the training phase and a generalization stimulus (i.e. a morph between the CS+ and CS- stimuli). Between fear conditioning and test, participants were either kept awake in the laboratory for 12 hr (n = 20) or had a night of sleep at home (n = 20). Irrespective of stimulus type, subjective threat expectancies, but not skin conductance responses, were enhanced after sleep deprivation, relative to regular sleep. These results suggest that sleep disturbances may play a role in anxiety disorders by increasing perceived threat.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12873
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sleep Research
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Keywords

  • associative learning
  • generalization
  • safety learning
  • sleep quality
  • ANXIETY DISORDERS
  • STIMULUS-GENERALIZATION
  • OVERGENERALIZATION
  • CONSOLIDATION
  • DISTURBANCE
  • MODEL
  • SHAPE

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