Summary: The vulnerability of people with evening chronotypes to anxiety, PTSD, and related disorders may be mediated by impaired acquisition of fear.
Source: Bial Foundation
Do you know your chronotype?
Chronotypes are our circadian preference profiles, that is, they refer to the differences in performance that each person has in relation to periods of sleep and wakefulness throughout the 24 hours of the day.
You can be a morning type (if you prefer to get up early and perform well in activities that start in the morning), an evening type (if you are more productive at night or at dawn and prefer to go to bed later) , or intermediate (if you easily adapt to morning and evening hours).
Circadian rhythms are increasingly studied because they can help understand the onset of mental disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this sense, scholars Chiara Lucifora, Giorgio M. Grasso, Michael A. Nitsche, Giovanni D’Italia, Mauro Sortino, Mohammad A. Salehinejad, Alessandra Falzone, Alessio Avenanti and Carmelo M. Vicario have resorted to the classical Pavlovian paradigm of fear conditioning. to investigate the neurocognitive basis of the association between chronotype and fear responses in healthy humans.
In the article “Enhanced fear acquisition in individuals with evening chronotype. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study,” published in the Affective Disorders Diaryin August 2022, researchers from the Università Degli Studi di Messina and the Università di Bologna (Italy), the Leibniz Research Center for Working Environment and Human Factors (Germany) and the Universidad Católica Del Maule (Chile) explain having used 40 participants recruited among the students of the University of Messina, 20 with evening chronotype and 20 controls (i.e. intermediate chronotype) to complete a virtual reality task of learning and extinction of the Pavlovian fear of 2 days.
“To our knowledge, only one study (Pace-Schott et al., 2015) to date has explored the role of chronotypes on the acquisition and extinction of fear in healthy humans, but has not not tested the intermediate chronotypes, the ideal control group because they are the most frequent chronotype in the population (Partonen, 2015)”, explains Carmelo M. Vicario, researcher supported by the BIAL Foundation.
The results obtained in both groups showed a higher fear acquisition response in individuals of the evening chronotype, compared to participants of the intermediate chronotype, confirming previous evidence that associated 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 influence of circadian rhythms on cognitive and affective processes, suggesting that the evening chronotype’s increased vulnerability to anxiety and related disorders may be mediated by impaired acquisition of fear” , says Vicario.
About this neuroscience research news
Author: Sandra Pinto
Source: Bial Foundation
Contact: Sandra Pinto – Bial Foundation
Image: Image is in public domain
Original research: Access closed.
“Increased acquisition of fear in individuals with evening chronotype. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study” by Chiara Lucifora et al. Affective Disorders Diary
Improvement of fear acquisition in individuals with evening chronotype. A Virtual Reality Fear Conditioning/Extinction Study
Circadian rhythms have received increasing attention in the context of mental disorders.
The evening chronotype has been associated with an increased risk of developing anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The classical fear conditioning paradigm is a powerful tool for revealing the key mechanisms of anxiety and PTSD.
We used this paradigm to investigate the neurocognitive basis of the association between chronotype and fear responses in healthy humans.
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