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Eye movements during recall of aversive memory decreases conditioned fear

Authors
Journal
Behaviour Research and Therapy
0005-7967
Publisher
Elsevier
Volume
51
Issue
10
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2013.07.004
Keywords
  • Us Devaluation
  • Us Deflation
  • Eye Movements
  • Human Fear Conditioning
  • Extinction
Disciplines
  • Economics
  • Medicine

Abstract

Abstract Cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety disorders typically involves exposure to the conditioned stimulus (CS). Despite its status as an effective and primary treatment, many patients do not show clinical improvement or relapse. Contemporary learning theory suggests that treatment may be optimized by adding techniques that aim at revaluating the aversive consequence (US) of the feared stimulus. This study tested whether US devaluation via a dual task – imagining the US while making eye movements – decreases conditioned fear. Following fear acquisition one group recalled the US while making eye movements (EM) and one group merely recalled the US (RO). Next, during a test phase, all participants were re-presented the CSs. Dual tasking, relative to the control condition, decreased memory vividness and emotionality. Moreover, only in the dual task condition reductions were observed in self-reported fear, US expectancy, and CS unpleasantness, but not in skin conductance responses. Findings provide the first evidence that the dual task decreases conditioned fear and suggest it may be a valuable addition to exposure therapy.

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