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Fear Conditioning in Women With Anorexia Nervosa and Healthy Controls: A Preliminary Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)490-497
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Abnormal Psychology
Issue number5
Published1 Jul 2021

King's Authors


Anorexia nervosa is characterized by anxiety-driven behaviors, such as food avoidance and distressing persistent thoughts about weight gain and body image. The present study used a classical fear conditioning procedure to test the processes of fear acquisition and generalization, extinction, and renewal in patients with anorexia nervosa and healthy controls. An app-based fear conditioning procedure was administered remotely to 64 patients and 60 healthy controls, over two sessions. A human female scream served as the unconditioned stimulus (US) and two neutral shapes were used as either the paired conditioned stimulus (danger cue; CS+) or the unpaired conditioned stimulus (safe cue; CS-). Patients with anorexia nervosa reported greater threat expectancy in response to the danger cue during the extinction and renewal phases and overall higher levels of negative affect throughout the task, compared with controls. Future research is warranted to replicate these findings and highlight the role that anxiety plays in explaining fear conditioning responses in patients with anorexia nervosa. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

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