Aerobic exercise and consolidation of fear extinction learning among women with posttraumatic stress disorder

Kevin M. Crombie, Anneliis Sartin-Tarm, Kyrie Sellnow, Rachel Ahrenholtz, Sierra Lee, Megan Matalamaki, Tom G. Adams, Josh M. Cisler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study tested whether aerobic exercise delivered during the consolidation window following fear extinction learning reduces the return of fear among women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants (n=35) completed an initial clinical assessment followed by a 3-day fear acquisition, extinction, and recall protocol. On day 1, participants completed a fear acquisition training task in which one geometric shape (conditioning stimulus; CS+) was paired (with 50% probability) with a mild electric shock (unconditioned stimulus; US), while a different shape (CS-) was never paired with the US. On day 2 (24 h later), participants completed a fear extinction training task in which the CS+ no longer predicted administration of the US. Shortly following extinction, participants were randomly assigned to complete either moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (EX) or a light-intensity exercise control (CON) condition. On day 3 (24 h later), participants completed fear recall tests assessing the return of fear (spontaneous recovery, renewal, and reinstatement). Fear responding was assessed via threat expectancy ratings and skin conductance responses (SCR). In the threat expectancy ratings, there were no significant differences between groups in spontaneous recovery; however, EX significantly (p=.02) reduced threat expectancy ratings following reinstatement relative to CON. In SCR measures, there were no significant differences between groups in spontaneous recovery, renewal, or reinstatement. These results support a role for moderate-intensity aerobic exercise during the consolidation window in reducing threat expectations following reinstatement in women with PTSD. Research should continue to examine exercise as a potential method for improving the efficacy of exposure-based therapies. Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04113798.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103867
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume142
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Virginia Horne Henry Fund at the University of Wisconsin – Madison . The funding source had no role in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in writing the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication. We would like to express many thanks to Dr. Kelli Koltyn for allowing us to use her lab space for exercise testing, and all of the participants.

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the Virginia Horne Henry Fund at the University of Wisconsin ? Madison. The funding source had no role in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in writing the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication. We would like to express many thanks to Dr. Kelli Koltyn for allowing us to use her lab space for exercise testing, and all of the participants.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Exercise
  • Exposure-therapy
  • Fear recall
  • Fear reinstatement
  • Fear responding
  • Return of fear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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