Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2016 Jul;132:49-56. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 May 21.

The effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on conditioned fear extinction in humans.

Author information

1
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic address: a.m.burger@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
2
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic address: bverkuil@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
3
Faculty of Psychology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Tiensestraat 102, 3000 Leuven, Belgium. Electronic address: ilse.vandiest@ppw.kuleuven.be.
4
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic address: vanderdoes@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.
5
Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, 1835 Neil Avenue Mall, Columbus, OH 43210, United States. Electronic address: thayer@psy.ohio-state.edu.
6
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands. Electronic address: brosschot@fsw.leidenuniv.nl.

Abstract

A critical component of the treatment for anxiety disorders is the extinction of fear via repeated exposure to the feared stimulus. This process is strongly dependent on successful memory formation and consolidation. Stimulation of the vagus nerve enhances memory formation in both animals and humans. The objective of this study was to assess whether transcutaneous stimulation of the vagus nerve (tVNS) can accelerate extinction memory formation and retention in fear conditioned humans. To assess fear conditioning and subsequent fear extinction, we assessed US expectancy ratings, fear potentiated startle responses and phasic heart rate responses. We conducted a randomized controlled trial in thirty-one healthy participants. After fear conditioning participants were randomly assigned to receive tVNS or sham stimulation during the extinction phase. Retention of extinction memory was tested 24h later. tVNS accelerated explicit fear extinction learning (US expectancy ratings), but did not lead to better retention of extinction memory 24h later. We did not find a differential physiological conditioning response during the acquisition of fear and thus were unable to assess potential effects of tVNS on the extinction of physiological indices of fear. These findings complement recent studies that suggest vagus nerve stimulation could be a promising tool to improve memory consolidation and fear extinction.

KEYWORDS:

Anxiety; Exposure; Extinction; Fear conditioning; Memory; Vagus nerve stimulation

PMID:
27222436
DOI:
10.1016/j.nlm.2016.05.007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center