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Equal pain-unequal fear response: Enhanced susceptibility of tooth pain to fear conditioning


Meier, Michael L; de Matos, Nuno M P; Brügger, Mike; Ettlin, Dominik A; Lukic, Nenad; Cheetham, Marcus; Jäncke, Lutz; Lutz, Kai (2014). Equal pain-unequal fear response: Enhanced susceptibility of tooth pain to fear conditioning. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:8:526.

Abstract

Experimental fear conditioning in humans is widely used as a model to investigate the neural basis of fear learning and to unravel the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders. It has been observed that fear conditioning depends on stimulus salience and subject vulnerability to fear. It is further known that the prevalence of dental-related fear and phobia is exceedingly high in the population. Dental phobia is unique as no other body part is associated with a specific phobia. Therefore, we hypothesized that painful dental stimuli exhibit an enhanced susceptibility to fear conditioning when comparing to equal perceived stimuli applied to other body sites. Differential susceptibility to pain-related fear was investigated by analyzing responses to an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) applied to the right maxillary canine (UCS-c) vs. the right tibia (UCS-t). For fear conditioning, UCS-c and USC-t consisted of painful electric stimuli, carefully matched at both application sites for equal intensity and quality perception. UCSs were paired to simple geometrical forms which served as conditioned stimuli (CS+). Unpaired CS+ were presented for eliciting and analyzing conditioned fear responses. Outcome parameter were (1) skin conductance changes and (2) time-dependent brain activity (BOLD responses) in fear-related brain regions such as the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, insula, thalamus, orbitofrontal cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex. A preferential susceptibility of dental pain to fear conditioning was observed, reflected by heightened skin conductance responses and enhanced time-dependent brain activity (BOLD responses) in the fear network. For the first time, this study demonstrates fear-related neurobiological mechanisms that point toward a superior conditionability of tooth pain. Beside traumatic dental experiences our results offer novel evidence that might explain the high prevalence of dental-related fears in the population.

Abstract

Experimental fear conditioning in humans is widely used as a model to investigate the neural basis of fear learning and to unravel the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders. It has been observed that fear conditioning depends on stimulus salience and subject vulnerability to fear. It is further known that the prevalence of dental-related fear and phobia is exceedingly high in the population. Dental phobia is unique as no other body part is associated with a specific phobia. Therefore, we hypothesized that painful dental stimuli exhibit an enhanced susceptibility to fear conditioning when comparing to equal perceived stimuli applied to other body sites. Differential susceptibility to pain-related fear was investigated by analyzing responses to an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) applied to the right maxillary canine (UCS-c) vs. the right tibia (UCS-t). For fear conditioning, UCS-c and USC-t consisted of painful electric stimuli, carefully matched at both application sites for equal intensity and quality perception. UCSs were paired to simple geometrical forms which served as conditioned stimuli (CS+). Unpaired CS+ were presented for eliciting and analyzing conditioned fear responses. Outcome parameter were (1) skin conductance changes and (2) time-dependent brain activity (BOLD responses) in fear-related brain regions such as the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, insula, thalamus, orbitofrontal cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex. A preferential susceptibility of dental pain to fear conditioning was observed, reflected by heightened skin conductance responses and enhanced time-dependent brain activity (BOLD responses) in the fear network. For the first time, this study demonstrates fear-related neurobiological mechanisms that point toward a superior conditionability of tooth pain. Beside traumatic dental experiences our results offer novel evidence that might explain the high prevalence of dental-related fears in the population.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Balgrist University Hospital, Swiss Spinal Cord Injury Center
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Center for Dental Medicine > Clinic for Masticatory Disorders and Complete Dentures, Geriatric and Special Care Dentistry
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:24 Oct 2014 13:37
Last Modified:12 Oct 2017 07:33
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-5161
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00526
PubMed ID:25100974

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