Evening people show increased fear acquisition, which can increase the risk of developing anxiety
Summary: The vulnerability of individuals with evening chronotypes to anxiety, PTSD, and related disorders may be mediated by altered fear acquisition.
Source: Bial Foundation
Do you know what your chronotype is?
Chronotypes are our circadian profiles of preferences, that is, they refer to the differences in performance that each person has in relation to periods of sleep and wakefulness during the 24 hours of the day.
We can be a morning type (if we prefer to wake up early and perform well in activities that start in the morning), an evening type (if we are more productive at night or at dawn and prefer to stay up later) or an intermediate type (if we easily adapt to morning and evening schedules) .
Circadian rhythms are increasingly being studied because they may help understand the origins of mental disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this regard, researchers Chiara Lucifora, Giorgio M. Grasso, Michael A. Nitsche, Giovanni D’Italia, Mauro Sortino, Mohammad A. Salehinejad, Alessandra Falzone, Alessio Avenanti, and Carmelo M. Vicario resorted to the classic Pavlovian fear conditioning paradigm to study neurocognitive the basis of the association between chronotype and fear response in healthy people.
In the paper “Increased acquisition of fear in people with an evening chronotype. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study,” published in Journal of Affective Disordersin August 2022, researchers from the Università Degli Studi di Messina and Università di Bologna (Italy), Leibniz Research Center for Work Environment and Human Factors (Germany) and Universidad Católica Del Maule (Chile) explain that they used 40 students recruited from of the University of Messina, 20 with evening chronotype and 20 controls (i.e., intermediate chronotype) to complete a two-day Pavlovian virtual reality fear and extinction learning task.
“To our knowledge, only one study (Pace-Schott et al., 2015) to date has investigated the role of chronotypes in fear acquisition and extinction in healthy humans, but did not test intermediate chronotypes, an ideal control group as they are the most common chronotype in the population (Partonen, 2015)”, explains Carmelo M. Vicario, a researcher supported by the BIAL Foundation.
The results obtained in the two groups showed a greater response to the acquisition of fear in persons with an evening chronotype, compared to participants of an intermediate chronotype, confirming previous evidence linking the evening chronotype with a higher risk of anxiety disorders (Alvaro et al., 2014; Park et al. . , 2015 ) and PTSD (e.g., Hasler et al., 2013 ; Yun et al., 2015 ).
“This study provides new insights into the impact of circadian rhythms on cognitive and affective processes, suggesting that greater vulnerability of the evening chronotype to anxiety and related disorders may be mediated by altered fear acquisition,” says Vicario.
About this news about neuroscience research
Original Research: Closed access.
“Enhanced fear acquisition in people with an evening chronotype. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study” by Chiaro Lucifora et al. Journal of Affective Disorders
Enhanced fear acquisition in people with an evening chronotype. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study
Circadian rhythms are receiving increasing attention in the context of mental disorders.
The evening chronotype is associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The classical fear conditioning paradigm is a powerful tool for uncovering key mechanisms of anxiety and PTSD.
We used this paradigm to study the neurocognitive basis of the association between chronotype and fear response in healthy humans.
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