Intranasal oxytocin decreases fear generalization in males, but does not modulate discrimination threshold
Dou, H., Zou, L., Becker, B., & Lei, Y. (2021). Intranasal oxytocin decreases fear generalization in males, but does not modulate discrimination threshold. Psychopharmacology, 238(3), 677-689. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05720-8
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Background: A previously acquired fear response often spreads to perceptually or conceptually close stimuli or contexts. This process, known as fear generalization, facilitates the avoidance of danger, and dysregulations in this process play an important role in anxiety disorders. Oxytocin (OT) has been shown to modulate fear learning, yet effects on fear generalization remain unknown. Methods: We employed a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, between-subject design during which healthy male participants received either intranasal OT or placebo (PLC) following fear acquisition and before fear generalization with concomitant acquisition of skin conductance responses (SCRs). Twenty-four to 72 h before the fear learning and immediately after the fear generalization task, participants additionally complete a discrimination threshold task. Results: Relative to PLC, OT significantly reduced perceived risk and SCRs towards the CS+ and GS1 (the generalization stimulus that is most similar to CS+) during fear generalization, whereas the discrimination threshold was not affected. Conclusions: Together, the results suggest that OT can attenuate fear generalization in the absence of effects on discrimination threshold. This study provides the first evidence for effects of OT on fear generalization in humans and suggests that OT may have therapeutic potential in anxiety disorders characterized by dysregulated fear generalization. ...
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Additional information about fundingThe work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, Grant Numbers, 31871130, 31571153, 91632117), the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant Number 2018YFA0701400), and the Science, Innovation and Technology Department of the Sichuan Province (2018JY0001), Guangdong Key Project in “Development of new tools for diagnosis and treatment of Autism” (2018B030335001), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31671150), Innovative Team Program in Higher Education of Guangdong, China (2015KCXTD009), Major Program of Guangdong, China (2016KZDXM009), Shenzhen Basic Research Scheme (JCYJ20150729104249783), Shenzhen Peacock Plan (KQTD2015033016104926), Investigation and evaluation of neural mechanisms associated with development of language, emotion, and cognitive disorders, 2019SHIBS0003. ...
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