The Sensitivity of Physiological Measures to Phobic and Nonphobic Fear Intensity

Aue, Tatjana; Hoeppli, Marie-Eve; Piguet, Camille (2012). The Sensitivity of Physiological Measures to Phobic and Nonphobic Fear Intensity. Journal of psychophysiology, 26(4), pp. 154-167. Hogrefe & Huber 10.1027/0269-8803/a000078

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We investigated whether amygdala activation, autonomic responses, respiratory responses, and facial muscle activity (measured over the brow and cheek [fear grin] regions) are all sensitive to phobic versus nonphobic fear and, more importantly, whether effects in these variables vary as a function of both phobic and nonphobic fear intensity. Spider-phobic and comparably low spider-fearful control participants imagined encountering different animals and rated their subjective fear while their central and peripheral nervous system activity was measured. All measures included in our study were sensitive to variations in subjective fear, but were related to different ranges and positions on the subjective fear level continuum. Left amygdala activation, heart rate, and facial muscle activity over the cheek region captured fear intensity variations even within narrowly described regions on the fear level continuum (here within extremely low levels of fear and within considerable phobic fear). Skin conductance and facial muscle activity over the brow region did not capture fear intensity variations within low levels of fear: skin conductance mirrored only extreme levels of fear, and activity over the brow region distinguished phobic from nonphobic fear but also low-to-moderate and high phobic fear. Finally, respiratory measures distinguished phobic from nonphobic fear with no further differentiation within phobic and nonphobic fear. We conclude that a careful consideration of the measures to be used in an investigation and the population to be examined can be critical in order to obtain significant results.

Item Type: Journal Article (Original Article)
Division/Institute: 07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Experimental Psychology and Neuropsychology
UniBE Contributor: Aue, Tatjana
Subjects: 100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
ISSN: 0269-8803
Publisher: Hogrefe & Huber
Language: English
Submitter: Tatjana Aue
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2015 11:10
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2015 11:10
Publisher DOI: 10.1027/0269-8803/a000078

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