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Theta activity during REM and NREM sleep and predicting fear learning outcomes

Lynch, Gavin (2015) Theta activity during REM and NREM sleep and predicting fear learning outcomes. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Fear conditioning, extinction, extinction-recall, and renewal are all components of a well-established paradigm used for studying fear learning and response in the laboratory setting, and are used to model anxiety disorders in animals and humans. Studies have recently begun to investigate the role of the brain electrical activity during sleep in emotional learning and memory. Emotionally relevant learning and memory has been associated with a particular activity band, theta rhythm, which can be measured during sleep. Previous studies have suggested theta activity during sleep may be an indicator of maladaptive stress responses. Despite this, there has not been a thorough investigation of theta activity during a full night of sleep and its relationship to subsequent fear responses.
The goal of the present study was to assess the relationship between theta activity and fear learning and memory, as well as, theta activity and extinction learning and memory using well-validataed paradigms to study fear responses in humans. Participants (16 females; 15 males; mean age = 23.6; SD = 3.80) underwent two consecutive nights of polysomnographic (PSG) recording in the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, before and after fear learning and extinction. Quantitative electroencephalographic spectral analysis was used to measure theta activity during sleep on both nights. Our objective was to evaluate the extent to which theta power during sleep predicts outcomes of fear learning and extinction memory the following day. Results showed higher theta power during the second night of the experiment predicted greater retention of the extinction memory during the fear renewal task completed the following morning.
Understanding the relationship between theta power during sleep and fear and extinction learning and memory may identify markers of risk or resilience to anxiety disorders in trauma exposed individuals.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lynch, Gavingal32@pitt.eduGAL32
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGermain, Annegermaina@upmc.eduANG2
Committee MemberChakravorty,
Committee MemberHastings, Teresa G.hastings@bns.pitt.eduTHASTING
Committee MemberFernandez-Mendoza,
Date: 16 December 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 November 2015
Approval Date: 16 December 2015
Submission Date: 11 December 2015
Access Restriction: 3 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 3 years.
Number of Pages: 74
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Neuroscience
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sleep; Theta Activity, Fear
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2015 20:26
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2018 06:15


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