Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Christine L. Larson

Committee Members

Krista M. Lisdahl, Han -J. Lee


avoidance, extinction, fear learning, fMRI, neuroimaging


Models of anxiety suggest that avoidance of a conditioned fear stimulus prevents new safety learning, thereby serving to maintain fear. However, there is little empirical data in humans on the impact of avoidance of conditioned fear stimuli on subsequent fear extinction. In the present study I investigated the effect of avoidance of threat on neural activity during avoidance/control and a subsequent extinction phase using ultra high-resolution (7T) fMRI. Results indicated that active avoidance was associated with increased activity in regions involved in reward prediction, but this did not differentiate active avoidance from an active control condition. Neural activation during the extinction task appeared to support extinction learning and fear suppression in participants who previously engaged in active avoidance. These findings suggest that engagement in active avoidance did not impair new safety learning.