Glucocorticoids and cortical decoding in the phobic brain.

Schwab, Simon; Federspiel, Andrea; Morishima, Yosuke; Nakataki, Masahito; Strik, Werner; Wiest, Roland; Heinrichs, Markus; de Quervain, Dominique; Soravia, Leila M. (2020). Glucocorticoids and cortical decoding in the phobic brain. Psychiatry research: Neuroimaging, 300, p. 111066. Elsevier 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2020.111066

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Glucocorticoids reduce phobic fear in anxiety disorders and enhance psychotherapy, possibly by reducing the retrieval of fear memories and enhancing the consolidation of new corrective memories. Glucocorticoid signaling in the basolateral amygdala can influence connected fear and memory-related cortical regions, but this is not fully understood. Previous studies investigated specific pathways moderated by glucocorticoids, for example, visual-temporal pathways; however, these analyses were limited to a-priori selected regions. Here, we performed whole-brain pattern analysis to localize phobic stimulus decoding related to the fear-reducing effect of glucocorticoids. We reanalyzed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from a previously published study with spider-phobic patients and healthy controls. The patients received glucocorticoids or a placebo before the exposure to spider images. There was moderate evidence that patients with phobia had higher decoding of phobic content in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the left and right anterior insula compared to controls. Decoding in the ACC and the right insula showed strong evidence for correlation with experienced fear. Patients with cortisol reported a reduction of fear by 10-13%; however, there was only weak evidence for changes in neural decoding compared to placebo which was found in the precuneus, the opercular cortex, and the left cerebellum.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Radiology, Neuroradiology and Nuclear Medicine (DRNN) > Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiology
04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Translational Research Center

UniBE Contributor:

Schwab, Simon Gabriel, Federspiel, Andrea, Morishima, Yosuke, Strik, Werner, Wiest, Roland Gerhard Rudi, Soravia, Leila


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Martin Zbinden

Date Deposited:

23 Apr 2020 10:25

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:33

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Anxiety disorder Cortisol Pattern analysis Phobia fMRI




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