Conditioned fear acquisition and generalization in generalized anxiety disorder
Tinoco-González, Daniella × Fullana, Miquel Angel Torrents-Rodas, David Bonillo, Albert Vervliet, Bram Blasco, María Jesús Farré, Magí Torrubia, Rafael #
Behavior Therapy vol:46 issue:5 pages:627-639
Abnormal fear conditioning processes (including fear acquisition and conditioned fear-generalization) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders. Previous research has shown that individuals with panic disorder present enhanced conditioned fear-generalization in comparison to healthy controls. Enhanced conditioned
fear-generalization could also characterize generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but research so far is inconclusive. An important confounding factor in previous research is comorbidity. The present study examined conditioned fear-acquisition and fear-generalization in 28 patients with GAD and 30 healthy controls using a recently
developed fear acquisition and generalization paradigm assessing fear-potentiated startle and online expectancies of the unconditioned stimulus. Analyses focused on GAD patients without comorbidity but included also patients with comorbid anxiety disorders. Patients and controls did not differ as regards fear acquisition. However, contrary to our hypothesis, both groups did not differ either in most indexes of conditioned fear-generalization.
Moreover, dimensional measures of GAD symptoms were not correlated with conditioned fear-generalization indexes. Similar results were obtained for patients with comorbidity.
These results suggest that conditioned fear-generalization is not enhanced in GAD. Results are discussed with special attention to the possible effects of comorbidity on fear learning abnormalities.