Neural Mechanisms Involved in Contextual Processing in PTSD and Fibromyalgia – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

Neural Mechanisms Involved in Contextual Processing in PTSD and Fibromyalgia

Esther Choi

Esther Choi

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Elizabeth Duval, Assistant Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Psychiatry, Michigan Medicine
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 1 (10am-10:50am)
Breakout Room: Room 12
Presenter: 5

Event Link


Fear modulation, the ability to contextualize fear learning in different settings, is a vital mechanism related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals with PTSD have impairments in extinction recall and fear renewal, for they continuously overreact or fail to recognize dangerous circumstances. There is strong evidence that people with fibromyalgia (FM) also struggle with fear modulation. One of the main goals of this research project is to use skin conductance response (SCR) to examine group differences in extinction recall and fear renewal in PTSD, FM, and control subjects. The subjects recruited are right-handed adults between ages 18 and 45. On Day 1, participants completed tasks related to fear learning. They were fear conditioned to learn that blue light in the office setting induces an electrical current, whereas blue light on the bookshelf does not, which is called extinction learning. On Day 2, they completed extinction recall and fear renewal for the fear learning task (acquisition and extinction of what they learned on Day 1). During these tasks, participants’ event-related skin conductance responses (ER-SCR) have been recorded, for SCR is a reliable indicator of one’s fear response. We anticipate that PTSD and FM groups will demonstrate significantly greater SCR during extinction recall and fear renewal. ANOVA will be used to compare data in the areas of interest between subject groups. We hope the results of this study will create a better understanding of cognitive and neurological deficits involved in PTSD and allow for the development of more targeted, improved treatment.

Authors: Esther Choi, Elizabeth Duval, Hanjoo Kim
Research Method: Clinical Research

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