Anxiety and depression frequently co-occur and may share similar deficits in the processing of emotional stimuli. High anxiety is associated with a failure in the acquisition and extinction of fear conditioning. Despite the supposed common deficits, no research has been conducted on fear acquisition and extinction in depression. The main aim of the present study was to investigate and compare fear acquisition and extinction in anxiety- and depression-prone participants. Non-clinical anxious, depressive, anxious-depressive and control participants performed a fear discrimination task. During acquisition, the CS+ predicted an aversive event (unconditioned stimulus, US) and the CS- safety (no US). During extinction, the CS+ was no longer followed by the US, rendering it (temporarily) into a safety signal. On each CS participants rated their US expectancy; skin conductance responses (SCRs) were measured throughout. The expectancy scores indicated that high anxiety resulted in less safety learning during acquisition and extinction; no effect of depression was observed. SCRs showed that high-anxiety persons displayed less discrimination learning (CS+ minus CS - ) during acquisition than low-anxiety persons. During extinction, high-depression persons demonstrated more discriminative SCR than low-depression persons. The observed discrepancies in response patterns of high-anxiety and -depression persons seem to indicate distinctive information processing of emotional stimuli.
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- Extinction, Safety learning, Depression, Fear conditioning, Anxiety, POSTTRAUMATIC-STRESS-DISORDER, INCREASED AMYGDALA, MAJOR DEPRESSION, UNIPOLAR DEPRESSION, SOCIAL PHOBIA, STIMULUS, RESPONSES, MODEL, COMORBIDITY, ACQUISITION