Sonderforschungsbereiche (SFB, Collaborative Research Centres)

The impact of modification of stimulus-outcome contingencies on extinction and exposure in anxiety disorders (SFB 1280: Extinction Learning)

Fear learning is highly dependent on the ability to detect and process contingencies between aversive stimuli and potential negative outcomes. Within this context, previous research has shown that providing verbal information about the association between fear stimuli and negative outcomes affects both the course and magnitude of fear acquisition and extinction in healthy individuals.

The projects within the SFB grant will further examine whether providing verbal information about these contingencies during fear conditioning affects fear extinction learning and extinction retrieval in healthy individuals and patients with different anxiety disorders. In a parallel line of research, the role of deficiencies in the processing of contingencies between fear stimuli and potential negative outcomes during exposure therapy will be examined. To this end, an innovative cognitive modification procedure will be used to reduce patients’ overestimation of contingencies between fear stimuli and negative outcomes. A multimethod approach will be adopted to assess the effect of the developed add-on intervention on exposure therapy efficacy in specific phobias.