A Multimodal Investigation of Renewal of Human Avoidance, Perceived Threat, and Emotion

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Many people who receive exposure-based treatments for anxiety disorders exhibit a return of fear and avoidance which is often referred to as renewal or relapse. Human and nonhuman research on fear conditioning and renewal has been instrumental in helping understand relapse in anxiety disorders. The purpose of this investigation was to examine renewal of human avoidance and assess whether avoidance may aid in sustaining renewal of fear responses. We adopted a multimodal measurement approach consisting of an approach-avoidance task along with ratings of perceived threat and fear and measures of skin-conductance, a widely used physiological measure of fear. A traditional, ... continued below

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v, 37 pages : illustrations (some color)

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Ludlum, Madonna L. May 2015.

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  • Ludlum, Madonna L.

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Many people who receive exposure-based treatments for anxiety disorders exhibit a return of fear and avoidance which is often referred to as renewal or relapse. Human and nonhuman research on fear conditioning and renewal has been instrumental in helping understand relapse in anxiety disorders. The purpose of this investigation was to examine renewal of human avoidance and assess whether avoidance may aid in sustaining renewal of fear responses. We adopted a multimodal measurement approach consisting of an approach-avoidance task along with ratings of perceived threat and fear and measures of skin-conductance, a widely used physiological measure of fear. A traditional, single-subject research design was used with six healthy adults. All tasks employed a discrete trial procedure. Experimental conditions included Pavlovian fear conditioning in which increased probability of money loss was paired with a “threat” meter in Context A and later followed extinction in Context B. Fear and avoidance increased to higher threat levels in Context A but not Context B. Renewal testing involved presenting the threat meter on a return to Context A to determine if it evoked fear and avoidance (i.e., relapse). As predicted, renewal testing in Context A showed that increased threat was associated with increased avoidance, ratings of perceived threat and fear, and higher skin-conductance. Moreover, results showed that renewal maintained over six blocks of trials. This is the first investigation of renewal of threat and avoidance in humans that highlights avoidance as a mechanism that may contribute to maintaining fear in anxiety pathology.

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v, 37 pages : illustrations (some color)

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  • May 2015

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  • Feb. 9, 2016, 4:37 p.m.

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  • Feb. 20, 2017, 11:04 a.m.

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Ludlum, Madonna L. A Multimodal Investigation of Renewal of Human Avoidance, Perceived Threat, and Emotion, thesis, May 2015; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc801907/: accessed May 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .