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Behav Res Ther. 2006 Oct;44(10):1491-502. Epub 2005 Dec 19.

Evidence for retarded extinction of aversive learning in anxious children.

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  • 1School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, QLD, 4072, Australia.


The habituation to intense acoustic stimuli and the acquisition of differentially conditioned fear were assessed in 53 clinically anxious and 30 non-anxious control children and young adolescents. Anxious children tended to show larger electrodermal responses during habituation, but did not differ in blink startle latency or magnitude. After acquisition training, non-anxious children rated the CS+ as more fear provoking and arousing than the CS- whereas the ratings of anxious children did not differ. However, anxious children rated the CS+ as more fear provoking after extinction, a difference that was absent in non-anxious children. During extinction training, anxious children displayed larger blink magnitude facilitation during CS+ and a trend towards larger electrodermal responses, a tendency not seen in non-anxious children. These data suggest that extinction of fear learning is retarded in anxious children.

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