Vigilance: A novel conditioned fear response that resists extinction.

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Date: Oct. 2022
From: Biological Psychology(Vol. 174)
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Document Type: Report; Brief article
Length: 342 words

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Abstract :

Keywords Fear conditioning; Attentional bias; Eye tracking; Gaze; Learning; Threat Highlights * We examine attentional bias as a conditioned fear response using eye tracking. * We found automatic and voluntary gaze bias for threat cue, but not safety cue. * Gaze bias for threat cue was insensitive to extinction, in contrast to pupil size, self-reported affect. * Findings suggest that exposure-based therapy may not resolve vigilance for threat. Abstract Attentional bias for threat is an adaptive feature of human psychology, but may become maladaptive in anxiety-related disorders, causing distress, distraction, and distorted perception of danger. Reaction time measures have revealed automatic, covert attention biases to threat, whereas eye tracking has revealed voluntary biases over a larger timescale, with monitoring or avoidance depending on context. Recently, attentional bias for threat has been studied as a conditioned fear response, providing new insight into how attentional biases are acquired and inhibited through learning experiences. However, very few studies have examined voluntary gaze biases during fear learning. In a novel eye tracking paradigm (N = 78), we examine the overt components of attentional bias to threat and safety cues. We found that threat cues, but not safety cues, elicited an initial orienting bias, as well as sustained monitoring bias across 10-second trials. This collective "vigilance" response to threat cues was insensitive to extinction, whereas condition fear responding revealed by pupil size and self-report ratings showed marked extinction. Vigilance may be less prone to extinction, compared to autonomic arousal, because eye movements require less energy than preparing the body for defensive behavior. Implications for understanding vigilance in PTSD are considered. Author Affiliation: (a) Department of Psychology, Whitman College, 345 Boyer Ave, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA (b) School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol, 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU, UK * Correspondence to: Whitman College, Department of Psychology, 345 Boyer Ave, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA. Article History: Received 12 February 2022; Revised 18 July 2022; Accepted 20 July 2022 (footnote)1 (footnote)2 Byline: Thomas Armstrong [] (a,1,*), Mira Engel (a), Edwin S. Dalmaijer (b,2)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A721718540