Frozen with fear: Conditioned suppression in a virtual reality model of human anxiety

Devon Allcoat, W. James Greville, Philip M. Newton, Simon Dymond

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Freezing-like topographies of behavior are elicited in conditioned suppression tasks whereby appetitive behavior is reduced by presentations of an aversively conditioned threat cue relative to a safety cue. Conditioned suppression of operant behavior by a Pavlovian threat cue is an established laboratory model of quantifying the response impairment seen in anxiety disorders. Little is known however about how different response topographies indicative of conditioned suppression are elicited in humans. Here, we refined a novel virtual reality (VR) paradigm in which presentations of a threat cue of unpredictable duration occurred while participants performed an operant response of shooting and destroying boxes searching for hidden gold. The VR paradigm detected significant suppression of response topographies (shots, hits and breaks) for a Pavlovian threat cue relative to a safety cue and novel cue presentations. Implications of the present findings for translational research on appetitive and aversive conflict in anxiety disorders are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-101
Number of pages4
JournalBehavioural Processes
Early online date23 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2015


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