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Papers of the Week

Papers: 8 May 2021 - 14 May 2021


Human Studies

2021 May 11

Commun Biol



Associative learning and extinction of conditioned threat predictors across sensory modalities.


Koenen LR, Pawlik RJ, Icenhour A, Petrakova L, Forkmann K, Theysohn N, Engler H, Elsenbruch S
Commun Biol. 2021 May 11; 4(1):553.
PMID: 33976383.


The formation and persistence of negative pain-related expectations by classical conditioning remain incompletely understood. We elucidated behavioural and neural correlates involved in the acquisition and extinction of negative expectations towards different threats across sensory modalities. In two complementary functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in healthy humans, differential conditioning paradigms combined interoceptive visceral pain with somatic pain (study 1) and aversive tone (study 2) as exteroceptive threats. Conditioned responses to interoceptive threat predictors were enhanced in both studies, consistently involving the insula and cingulate cortex. Interoceptive threats had a greater impact on extinction efficacy, resulting in disruption of ongoing extinction (study 1), and selective resurgence of interoceptive CS-US associations after complete extinction (study 2). In the face of multiple threats, we preferentially learn, store, and remember interoceptive danger signals. As key mediators of nocebo effects, conditioned responses may be particularly relevant to clinical conditions involving disturbed interoception and chronic visceral pain.