Cortisol disrupts the neural correlates of extinction recall

Valerie L. Kinner, Christian J. Merz, Silke Lissek, Oliver T. Wolf
2016 NeuroImage  
The renewal effect describes the recovery of extinguished responses that may occur after a change in context and indicates that extinction memory retrieval is sometimes prone to failure. Stress hormones have been implicated to modulate extinction processes, with mostly impairing effects on extinction retrieval. However, the neurobiological mechanisms mediating stress effects on extinction memory remain elusive. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated the effects of
more » ... ortisol administration on the neural correlates of extinction memory retrieval in a predictive learning task. In this task, participants were required to predict whether certain food stimuli were associated with stomach trouble when presented in two different contexts. A twoday renewal paradigm was applied in which an association was acquired in context A and subsequently extinguished in context B. On the following day, participants received either cortisol or placebo 40 min before extinction memory retrieval was tested in both contexts. Behaviorally, cortisol impaired the retrieval of extinguished associations when presented in the extinction context. On the neural level, this effect was characterized by a reduced context differentiation for the extinguished stimulus in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, but only in men. In the placebo group, ventromedial prefrontal cortex was functionally connected to the left cerebellum, the anterior cingulate and the right anterior parahippocampal gyrus to express extinction memory. This functional crosstalk was reduced under cortisol. These findings illustrate that the stress hormone cortisol disrupts ventromedial prefrontal cortex functioning and its communication with other brain regions implicated in extinction memory.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.005 pmid:26973167 fatcat:wo2tjqltxfhcla4g5tnypcvyda