Functional and neural mechanisms of human fear conditioning: studies in healthy and brain-damaged individuals

Battaglia, Simone (2020) Functional and neural mechanisms of human fear conditioning: studies in healthy and brain-damaged individuals, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Psicologia, 32 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/9085.
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Fear conditioning represents the learning process by which a stimulus, after repeated pairing with an aversive event, comes to evoke fear and becomes intrinsically aversive. This learning is essential to organisms throughout the animal kingdom and represents one the most successful laboratory paradigm to reveal the psychological processes that govern the expression of emotional memory and explore its neurobiological underpinnings. Although a large amount of research has been conducted on the behavioural or neural correlates of fear conditioning, some key questions remain unanswered. Accordingly, this thesis aims to respond to some unsolved theoretic and methodological issues, thus furthering our understanding of the neurofunctional basis of human fear conditioning both in healthy and brain-damaged individuals. Specifically, in this thesis, behavioural, psychophysiological, lesion and non-invasive brain stimulation studies were reported. Study 1 examined the influence of normal aging on context-dependent recall of extinction of fear conditioned stimulus. Study 2 aimed to determine the causal role of the ventromedial PFC (vmPFC) in the acquisition of fear conditioning by systematically test the effect of bilateral vmPFC brain-lesion. Study 3 aimed to interfere with the reconsolidation process of fear memory by the means of non-invasive brain stimulation (i.e. TMS) disrupting PFC neural activity. Finally, Study 4 aimed to investigate whether the parasympathetic – vagal – modulation of heart rate might reflect the anticipation of fearful, as compared to neutral, events during classical fear conditioning paradigm. Evidence reported in this PhD thesis might therefore provide key insights and deeper understanding of critical issues concerning the neurofunctional mechanisms underlying the acquisition, the extinction and the reconsolidation of fear memories in humans.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Battaglia, Simone
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
fear conditionig - prefrontal cortex - TMS - reconsodlidation - psychophysiological responses
Data di discussione
30 Marzo 2020

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