Modulation of threat extinction by working memory load: An event-related potential study.

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Date: Mar. 2022
Publisher: Elsevier Science Publishers
Document Type: Report; Brief article
Length: 322 words

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Abstract :

Keywords Working memory load; Threat extinction; Distraction; Exposure therapy; Late positive potential (LPP); Event-related potential (ERP) Highlights * Knowing how working memory load affects extinction is relevant for exposure therapy. * An extinction task was interspersed with low & high working memory load during EEG. * Overall, working memory load reduced processing of conditioned stimuli. * Extinction learning was slower under high versus low working memory load. * There is empirical support for limiting distraction to optimize extinction learning. Abstract Distraction is typically discouraged during exposure therapy for anxiety, because it is thought to interfere with extinction learning by diverting attention away from anxiety-provoking stimuli. Working memory load is one form of distraction that might interfere with extinction learning. Alternatively, working memory load might reduce threat responding and benefit extinction learning by engaging prefrontal brain regions that have a reciprocal relationship with brain circuits involved in threat detection and processing. Prior work examining the effect of working memory load on threat extinction has been limited and has found mixed results. Here, we used the late positive potential (LPP), an event-related potential that is larger for threatening compared to non-threatening stimuli to assess the effect of working memory load on threat extinction. After acquisition, 38 participants performed three blocks of an extinction task interspersed with low and high working memory load trials. Results showed that overall, the LPP was reduced under high compared to low working memory load, and that working memory load slowed extinction learning. Results provide empirical evidence in support of limiting distraction during exposure therapy in order to optimize extinction learning efficiency. Author Affiliation: Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA * Corresponding author. Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Texas A&M University, 4235 TAMU, College Station, TX, 77843, USA. Article History: Received 22 July 2021; Revised 26 November 2021; Accepted 5 January 2022 Byline: Yuhan Cheng, T. Bryan Jackson, Annmarie MacNamara [] (*)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A692744301