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Overnight fasting affects avoidance learning and relief

  • Papalini, Silvia; 121717;
  • Neefs, Laura;
  • Beckers, Tom; 5902;
  • Van Oudenhove, Lukas; 27997;
  • Vervliet, Bram; 35504;
Publication Date
Sep 02, 2023
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Objectives: prolonged fasting influences threat and reward processing, two fundamental systems underpinning adaptive behaviors. In animals, overnight fasting sensitizes the mesolimbic-dopaminergic activity governing avoidance, reward, and fearextinction learning. Despite evidence that overnight fasting may also affect reward and fear learning in humans, effects on human avoidance learning have not been studied yet. Here, we examined the effects of 16 h-overnight fasting on instrumental avoidance and relief from threat omission.Methods: to this end, 50 healthy women were randomly assigned to a Fasting (N = 25) or a Re-feeding group (N = 25) and performed an Avoidance-Relief Task.Results: we found that fasting decreases unnecessary avoidance during signaled safety; this effect was mediated via a reduction in relief pleasantness during signaled absence of threat. A fasting-induced reduction in relief was also found during fear extinction learning.Discussion: we conclude that fasting optimizes avoidance and safety learning. Future studies should test whether these effects also hold for anxious individuals. / status: published

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