McKay_whole_thesis.pdf (3.74 MB)
The effect of menstrual phase on fear extinction learning and recall
thesisposted on 2023-05-27, 11:12 authored by McKay, CL
Females are twice more likely to develop anxiety disorders as males. One mechanism believed to underlie the development and maintenance of anxiety disorders is impaired fear extinction. Recent studies have considered menstrual phase as a factor that distinguishes males from females in fear extinction recall. The aim of the study was to replicate previous findings and investigate the independent effects of estrogen and progesterone on fear extinction recall. Sixteen males and 29 females (13 in the early-follicular phase, 16 in the mid-luteal phase) were tested in a two-day fear acquisition and extinction task and provided a saliva sample to assess hormonal levels. Skin conductance response was used as the dependent variable in the fear acquisition task. No significant differences were found between mid-luteal females, early follicular females and males during fear acquisition and extinction learning however, early follicular females demonstrated significantly lower fear extinction recall (higher fear recovery) than mid-luteal females. The findings suggest that the mid-luteal phase, with high estrogen and progesterone, may facilitate fear extinction recall in females. This outcome supports the delivery of treatments for some anxiety disorders based on fear extinction, such as exposure therapy, to female clients during the mid-luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.
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