Presentation Title

Fear Conditioning in Humans: Learnt Quickly and Moderated by Stimulus Type

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Location

HUB 302-91

Type of Presentation

Poster

Abstract

Fear conditioning is a behavioral paradigm where a fear inducing unconditioned stimulus (US) is continuously paired with a to-be-conditioned neutral stimulus (CS), such that it begins to elicit a fear response. In this study we used electric shock in a fear conditioning paradigm to test the dynamics and effect of stimulus type on fear conditioning.

Subject’s skin conductance (SCR) and startle responses were measured while viewing either 30 tool images or 30 animal images (CS+) intermixed with neutral plant images (CS-). A brief electric shock was administered at the stimulus offset of animal/tool images.

We found a significant difference between CS+ and CS- across the entire task for both startle (T-Test, p=2.59561E-06) and SCR (T-Test, p=1.40402E-11), demonstrating that the paradigm induced fear conditioning. There is also a strong, highly significant correlation between SCR and startle response ( r= .495, p=8.8E-08) suggesting that each can be seen as a measurement of the same underlying fear response phenomena. Participants quickly learned to distinguish between CS+ and CS- stimuli such that a significant difference was observed by the 12th image on average (T-Test, p=.008). In contrast to a recent Dunsmoor et al paper (2015), we found a difference between stimulus types whereby animals give a stronger fear response (SCR CS+ - CS- Tools vs Animals, T-Test, p= .0006).

Our method shows that humans are capable of rapidly learning which stimuli predict shock, but that some stimuli afford faster learning. Further work investigating other stimuli types is needed.

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Fear Conditioning in Humans: Learnt Quickly and Moderated by Stimulus Type

HUB 302-91

Fear conditioning is a behavioral paradigm where a fear inducing unconditioned stimulus (US) is continuously paired with a to-be-conditioned neutral stimulus (CS), such that it begins to elicit a fear response. In this study we used electric shock in a fear conditioning paradigm to test the dynamics and effect of stimulus type on fear conditioning.

Subject’s skin conductance (SCR) and startle responses were measured while viewing either 30 tool images or 30 animal images (CS+) intermixed with neutral plant images (CS-). A brief electric shock was administered at the stimulus offset of animal/tool images.

We found a significant difference between CS+ and CS- across the entire task for both startle (T-Test, p=2.59561E-06) and SCR (T-Test, p=1.40402E-11), demonstrating that the paradigm induced fear conditioning. There is also a strong, highly significant correlation between SCR and startle response ( r= .495, p=8.8E-08) suggesting that each can be seen as a measurement of the same underlying fear response phenomena. Participants quickly learned to distinguish between CS+ and CS- stimuli such that a significant difference was observed by the 12th image on average (T-Test, p=.008). In contrast to a recent Dunsmoor et al paper (2015), we found a difference between stimulus types whereby animals give a stronger fear response (SCR CS+ - CS- Tools vs Animals, T-Test, p= .0006).

Our method shows that humans are capable of rapidly learning which stimuli predict shock, but that some stimuli afford faster learning. Further work investigating other stimuli types is needed.