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Negative appraisals and fear extinction are independently related to PTSD symptoms


Zuj, DV and Palmer, MA and Gray, KE and Hsu, CMK and Nicholson, EL and Malhi, GS and Bryant, RA and Felmingham, KL, Negative appraisals and fear extinction are independently related to PTSD symptoms, Journal of affective disorders, 217 pp. 246-251. ISSN 0165-0327 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.jad.2017.04.016


Background: Considerable research has revealed impaired fear extinction to be a significant predictor of PTSD. Fear extinction is also considered the primary mechanism of exposure therapy, and a critical factor in PTSD recovery. The cognitive theory of PTSD proposes that symptoms persist due to excessive negative appraisals about the trauma and its sequelae. Research has not yet examined the relationship between fear extinction and negative appraisals in PTSD.

Methods: A cross-sectional sample of participants with PTSD (n = 21), and trauma-exposed controls (n = 33) underwent a standardized differential fear conditioning and extinction paradigm, with skin conductance response (SCR) amplitude serving as the index of conditioned responses. The Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory (PTCI) was used to index catastrophic negative appraisals.

Results: Participants with PTSD demonstrated a slower decrease in overall SCR responses during extinction and greater negative appraisals compared to the group. A moderation analysis revealed that both negative trauma-relevant appraisals and fear extinction learning were independently associated with PTSD symptoms, but there was no moderation interaction.

Limitations: The current study was limited by a modest sample size, leading to the inclusion of participants with subclinical PTSD symptoms. Further, the current study only assessed fear extinction learning; including a second day extinction recall task may show alternative effects.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that negative appraisals and fear extinction did not interact, but had independent relationships with PTSD symptoms. Here we show for the first time in an experimental framework that negative appraisals and fear extinction play separate roles in PTSD symptoms.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:PTSD, fear extinction, threat expectancy, negative appraisals
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Biological psychology
Research Field:Behavioural neuroscience
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in psychology
UTAS Author:Zuj, DV (Dr Daniel Zuj)
UTAS Author:Palmer, MA (Dr Matt Palmer)
UTAS Author:Gray, KE (Ms Kate Gray)
UTAS Author:Hsu, CMK (Mr Ken Hsu)
UTAS Author:Nicholson, EL (Ms Emma Nicholson)
UTAS Author:Felmingham, KL (Professor Kim Felmingham)
ID Code:117638
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2017-06-22
Last Modified:2018-07-25

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