Conditioned Fear Acquisition and Generalization in Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Daniella Tinoco-González, Miquel Angel Fullana, David Torrents-Rodas, Albert Bonillo, Bram Vervliet, María Jesús Blasco, Magí Farré, Rafael Torrubia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014. Abnormal fear conditioning processes (including fear acquisition and conditioned fear-generalization) have been implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety disorders. Previous research has shown that individuals with panic disorder present enhanced conditioned fear-generalization in comparison to healthy controls. Enhanced conditioned fear-generalization could also characterize generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), but research so far is inconclusive. An important confounding factor in previous research is comorbidity. The present study examined conditioned fear-acquisition and fear-generalization in 28 patients with GAD and 30 healthy controls using a recently developed fear acquisition and generalization paradigm assessing fear-potentiated startle and online expectancies of the unconditioned stimulus. Analyses focused on GAD patients without comorbidity but included also patients with comorbid anxiety disorders. Patients and controls did not differ as regards fear acquisition. However, contrary to our hypothesis, both groups did not differ either in most indexes of conditioned fear-generalization. Moreover, dimensional measures of GAD symptoms were not correlated with conditioned fear-generalization indexes. Comorbidity did not have a significant impact on the results. Our data suggest that conditioned fear-generalization is not enhanced in GAD. Results are discussed with special attention to the possible effects of comorbidity on fear learning abnormalities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-639
JournalBehavior Therapy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


  • Fear conditioning
  • Fear generalization
  • Generalized anxiety disorder


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