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Decrease in amygdala activity during repeated exposure to spider images predicts avoidance behavior in spider fearful individuals.
Lund university; Uppsala university.
Uppsala University.
Uppsala university.
Uppsala university.
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2020 (English)In: Translational Psychiatry, E-ISSN 2158-3188, Vol. 10, no 1, article id 292Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Spider phobia is characterized by exaggerated fear of situations where spiders could be present, resulting in avoidance of such situations and compromised quality of life. An important component in psychological treatment of spider phobia is exposure to phobic situations that reduces avoidance behaviors. At the neural level, amygdala responses to phobic material are elevated, but normalizes following exposure treatment. To what extent amygdala activity decreases during a session of repeated phobic stimulation, and whether activity decrease is related to subsequent avoidance is not well studied. We hypothesized reduced amygdala activity during the course of repeated exposure to spider pictures, and that the degree of reduction would predict subsequent avoidance of spider pictures. To test our hypothesis, functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in 45 individuals with spider fear during repeated exposure to spider pictures. Results showed that repeated exposure to spider stimuli attenuated amygdala reactivity and individual differences in activity reductions predicted subsequent avoidance behavior to spider pictures in an incentive-conflict task, with larger attenuations predicting less avoidance. At 6-month follow up, initial reductions in amygdala activation still predicted avoidance. This result demonstrates that reduction in amygdala responses is related to clinically meaningful outcomes in human anxiety, and suggests that within-session reductions in amygdala responses could be an important mechanism explaining the clinical effects of exposure therapy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2020. Vol. 10, no 1, article id 292
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology) Neurosciences
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URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-39667DOI: 10.1038/s41398-020-00887-2ISI: 000568381800002PubMedID: 32820152Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85089705875OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-39667DiVA, id: diva2:1460974
Available from: 2020-08-25 Created: 2020-08-25 Last updated: 2024-01-17Bibliographically approved

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Åhs, Fredrik
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CiteExportLink to record
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