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Glucocorticoids reduce phobic fear in humans

Soravia, Leila M. and Heinrichs, Markus and Aerni, Amanda and Maroni, Caroline and Schelling, Gustav and Ehlert, Ulrike and Roozendaal, Benno and de Quervain, Dominique J.-F.. (2006) Glucocorticoids reduce phobic fear in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103 (14). pp. 5585-5590.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/46525/

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Abstract

Phobias are characterized by excessive fear, cued by the presence or anticipation of a fearful situation. Whereas it is well established that glucocorticoids are released in fearful situations, it is not known whether these hormones, in turn, modulate perceived fear. As extensive evidence indicates that elevated glucocorticoid levels impair the retrieval of emotionally arousing information, they might also inhibit retrieval of fear memory associated with phobia and, thereby, reduce phobic fear. Here, we investigated whether acutely administrated glucocorticoids reduced phobic fear in two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in 40 subjects with social phobia and 20 subjects with spider phobia. In the social phobia study, cortisone (25 mg) administered orally 1 h before a socio-evaluative stressor significantly reduced self-reported fear during the anticipation, exposure, and recovery phase of the stressor. Moreover, the stress-induced release of cortisol in placebo-treated subjects correlated negatively with fear ratings, suggesting that endogenously released cortisol in the context of a phobic situation buffers fear symptoms. In the spider phobia study, repeated oral administration of cortisol (10 mg), but not placebo, 1 h before exposure to a spider photograph induced a progressive reduction of stimulus-induced fear. This effect was maintained when subjects were exposed to the stimulus again 2 days after the last cortisol administration, suggesting that cortisol may also have facilitated the extinction of phobic fear. Cortisol treatment did not reduce general, phobia-unrelated anxiety. In conclusion, the present findings in two distinct types of phobias indicate that glucocorticoid administration reduces phobic fear.
Faculties and Departments:03 Faculty of Medicine > Bereich Psychiatrie (Klinik) > Erwachsenenpsychiatrie UPK > Kognitive Neurowissenschaften (de Quervain)
03 Faculty of Medicine > Departement Klinische Forschung > Bereich Psychiatrie (Klinik) > Erwachsenenpsychiatrie UPK > Kognitive Neurowissenschaften (de Quervain)
07 Faculty of Psychology > Departement Psychologie > Forschungsbereich Klinische Psychologie und Neurowissenschaften > Cognitive Neuroscience (de Quervain)
UniBasel Contributors:de Quervain, Dominique J.-F.
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:National Academy of Sciences
ISSN:0027-8424
e-ISSN:1091-6490
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:27 Nov 2017 11:07
Deposited On:27 Nov 2017 11:07

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