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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2010 Oct;94(3):392-401. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2010.08.006. Epub 2010 Aug 25.

Cortisol enhances neural differentiation during fear acquisition and extinction in contingency aware young women.

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Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, University of Giessen, Otto-Behaghel-Strasse 10H, 35394 Giessen, Germany.


Previously, we observed cortisol induced enhancement of neural fear acquisition in women. Yet, less is known about cortisol effects on neural fear extinction. Via differential fear conditioning, we explored cortisol effects on acquisition and extinction. Twenty contingency aware women taking monophasic oral contraceptives were included; 10 received placebo, 10 cortisol before conditioning. Group differences emerged in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, and--as trend--in insula and thalamus during acquisition and in hippocampus, thalamus, and--as trend--in amygdala, insula, and ACC during extinction. During acquisition group differences were due to higher responses to the CS+ than to the CS- in the cortisol group. Notably, during extinction, group differences were due to higher responses to the CS- than to the CS+ in this group. Thus, cortisol induced a fear acquisition and extinction specific enhanced neural differentiation.

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