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Biol Psychol. 2006 Oct;73(3):262-71. Epub 2006 Jul 7.

Effects of beta blockade, PTSD diagnosis, and explicit threat on the extinction and retention of an aversively conditioned response.

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  • 1Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Research Service (151), 718 Smyth Road, Manchester, NH 03104, United States.


An aversively conditioned SC response was assessed in 18 males meeting DSM-IV criteria for chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 10 trauma-exposed males who never developed PTSD. Effects of beta blockade on acquisition and retention of a conditioned response (CR) were examined by administering propranolol HCl before acquisition or following extinction trials. Retention of the CR was assessed 1 week following acquisition under conditions of non-threat and threat. Conditioned stimuli were colored circles and the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) was a "highly annoying" electrical stimulus. The propranolol failed to produce any measurable effects on acquisition or retention of the CR and there was no evidence of increased conditionability in individuals diagnosed with PTSD. One week following acquisition, the differential CR to the reinforced stimulus was evident only in the threat condition. This suggests that belief in the presence of a threat is necessary and sufficient for activating a previously established CR.

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