Cortisol May Strengthen Frightening Memories

The stress hormone may play a role in PTSD and anxiety.

The return of conditioned fear after successful extinction (eg, following exposure therapy) is a significant problem in the treatment of anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Targeting the reconsolidation of fear memories may allow a more lasting effect as it intervenes with the original memory trace. 

Indeed, several pharmacological agents and behavioral interventions have been shown to alter (enhance, impair, or otherwise update) the reconsolidation of reactivated memories of different types. 

Cortisol is a stress hormone and a potent modulator of learning and memory, yet its effects on fear memory reconsolidation are unclear. 

To investigate whether cortisol intervenes with the reconsolidation of fear memories in healthy males and how specific this effect might be, we built a 3-day reconsolidation design with skin conductance response (SCR) as a measure of conditioned fear.

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