Erasing Fear : Effect of Disrupting Fear Memory Reconsolidation on Central and Peripheral Nervous System Activity
Abstract: Fear memories, here defined as learned associations between a stimulus and a physiological fear reaction, are formed through fear conditioning. In animals, fear memories, present in the lateral amygdala, undergo reconsolidation after recall. Moreover, this reconsolidation process can be disrupted both pharmacologically and behaviourally, resulting in a reduced fear response to the stimulus. This thesis examines the attenuation of fear memories by disrupting reconsolidation in humans, using measures of both the central and peripheral nervous system activity. Serotonergic and dopaminergic genes have previously been tied to both fear conditioning and anxiety disorders, where fear conditioning mechanisms are important. In order to evaluate the possible role of fear memory reconsolidation mechanims in the effect on fear and anxiety by these genes, this thesis also compare the reconsolidation disruption effect between different serotonergic and dopaminergic genotypes.Study I examined the attentuation of fear memories by disrupting reconsolidation in humans using reacquisition as a measure of the return of fear. Moreover, study I investigated the impact of differences in serotonergic and dopaminergic alleles on this process.Study II examined the attentuation of fear memories by disrupting reconsolidation in humans using reinstatement as a measure of the return of fear. Study II also investigated the impact of differences in serotonergic and dopaminergic alleles on the process of fear memory reconsolidation.Study III used psychophysiology and fMRI to localize the functional neural activity mediating the fear memory reconsolidation disruption effect.In summary, this thesis provides evidence that fear memories are attenuated by reconsolidation disruption in humans and that serotonergic and dopaminergic alleles influence this process. Moreover, this thesis support that human fear memory reconsolidation is amygdala-dependent, suggesting an evolutionary shared memory mechanism.
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