A systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Fear Conditioning Studies
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Fear conditioning has been described as an important process involved in the etiology of anxiety disorders. The following meta-analysis aimed at examining differences between patients and healthy individuals during acquisition, extinction and the return of fear phase. Four studies (published in 2021 and 2022) with data on 119 individuals with anxiety disorders and 138 controls were obtained after a screening of 672 articles published on PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, and OpenGrey. None of the studies found significant differences between those individuals with and those without anxiety disorders during acquisition, extinction, and return of fear. One study did find significant differences between patients and healthy controls towards the CS+, but not the CS-, during return of fear. The extent of differences between individuals with anxiety disorders and those without remains somewhat controversial. Further research is necessary to investigate patient-control differences in fear conditioning, which are thought to underlie the pathology of anxiety disorders.