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The relationship between self-reported anxiety and autonomic arousal at fear conditioning & explicit memory at extinction recall

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 — Poster Session III

12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

FAES Academic Center



* FARE Award Winner


  • AL McGlade
  • EJ Ivie
  • KJ Michalska
  • A Gold
  • T Shechner
  • DS Pine


Whether autonomic arousal at encoding improves subsequent memory has been disputed (Phelps & Sharot, 2008; Kensinger & Corbin, 2004). We investigated whether skin conductance response (SCR) and self-reported anxiety during fear conditioning were associated with explicit memory of conditioned stimuli assessed at a later visit, and whether age and anxiety diagnosis moderate this relationship. We hypothesized individuals with high arousal and high anxiety would show better explicit memory. Participants (adults: 33 healthy, 19 anxious; children: 13 healthy, 16 anxious) completed a fear conditioning paradigm and extinction recall task on separate visits. Subjects were split into high and low groups based on self-reported anxiety (Likert ratings following fear acquisition) and autonomic arousal (mean SCR during conditioning). A between-subjects ANOVA tested the influence of diagnosis, age, autonomic arousal, and self-reported anxiety on explicit memory. Participants with high anxiety ratings showed better recall for the conditioned stimuli, F(1, 63)= 6.48, p= .01. There was also an interaction between SCR and diagnosis, F(1, 63)= 3.93, p=.052. The difference between high vs low autonomic arousal groups on memory was greater in anxious versus healthy participants. Findings suggest that high self-reported anxiety is related to explicit memory. Moderate anxiety and autonomic arousal may enhance explicit memory.

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