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Learning not to fear suffication using non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation

Fear of breathlessness is a common interoceptive ('originating from inside the body') fear in persons with panic disorder. Such fear is thought to aggravate the actual experience of breathlessness and may be a potential cause of 'medically unexplained' breathlessness. A major challenge is that interoceptive fears seem especially pervasive and resistant to extinction learning, the main active component in the cognitive-behavioral treatment of fear. In this project, I will test whether the extinction of interoceptive fear can be accelerated using an innovative and non-invasive neurostimulation technique that I have previously investigated in the context of exteroceptive fear extinction. Specifically, stimulating the vagus nerve has shown promise as a method to accelerate the extinction of fear. This project will answer the most pressing questions from the original FWO application. The results will potentially open up new research areas, and can provide a crucial step towards improving existing treatment of interoceptive fears.
Date:1 Oct 2019  →  30 Sep 2020
Keywords:vagus nerve stimulation, interoception, fear conditioning, breathlessness, noradrenaline
Disciplines:Biological and physiological psychology not elsewhere classified