Common and separable behavioral and neural mechanisms underlie the generalization of fear and disgust
Wang, J., Sun, X., Becker, B., & Lei, Y. (2022). Common and separable behavioral and neural mechanisms underlie the generalization of fear and disgust. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 116, Article 110519. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2022.110519
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Generalization represents the transfer of a conditioned responses to stimuli that resemble the conditioned stimulus (CS). Previous studies on generalization of defensive avoidance responses have primarily focused on fear and have neglected disgust generalization, which represents a key pathological mechanism in some anxiety disorders. In the present study we examined common and distinct mechanisms of fear and disgust generalization by means of a fear or disgust multi-CS conditioning and generalization paradigm with concomitant event-related potential (ERPs) acquisition in n = 62 subjects. We demonstrate that compared to fear, disgust-relevant generalized stimuli (GS) elicited larger expectancy ratings and longer reaction times (RTs) reflecting stronger ratings of ‘risk’. On the electrophysiological level, increased P2 amplitudes were found in response to conditioned CS+ versus CS− across both domains, possibly reflecting higher motivational and attentional salience of aversive conditioned stimuli per se. Contingent negative variation (CNV) amplitude was significantly larger for disgust-CS+ than disgust-CS−, showing stronger preparation of the disgust US. Additionally, we found that the contingent negative variation (CNV) fear generalization gradient, and CNV amplitude were increased with similarity to CS+. In contrast the CNV to disgust-GS did not differ and did not reflect disgust generalization. Together this may indicate that the CNV represents a highly fear-specific index for generalization learning. This study provides the first neurobiological evidence for common and distinct generalization learning in fear versus disgust suggesting that dysregulations in separable defensive avoidance mechanisms may underly different anxiety disorder subtypes. ...
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Additional information about fundingThe work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, Grant Numbers, 31871130), Guangdong Key Project in “Development of new tools for diagnosis and treatment of Autism” (2018B030335001).
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