Event Title

Effects of Differentially Conditioned Stimuli on Working Memory Processes

Mentor 1

Christine Larson

Start Date

16-4-2021 1:15 PM

Description

Current theories propose that threat-related stimuli are stored to a greater degree in working memory compared to neutral stimuli. However, much of this work has examined stimuli that hold physically relevant threat attributes (e.g., angry faces) and fails to address how a “neutral” stimulus that acquires a threat attribute through aversive conditioning influences working memory storage. The current study examined how both safe (i.e., CS-) and aversive-conditioned (i.e., CS+) stimuli influence working memory storage. Sixty-one participants completed a differential fear conditioning task followed by change-detection task. The change detection task consisted of three stimulus conditions: previously shown CS+ and CS- stimuli, and a novel “neutral” stimulus. The number of stimuli presented in each condition varied by load, with two target rectangles presented in a low load and four presented in a high load. We measured accuracy, response time (RT), and Pashler’s K scores (a behavioral estimate of working memory storage). Our results revealed no main effects across our three conditions (i.e., CS+, CS-, and novel neutral stimuli). However, we did approach significant condition by set size interaction effects for accuracy and RT. Further analyses examining our behavioral measures using only the CS+ and CS- conditions indicated longer RTs on CS+ compared to CS- trials. Therefore, our current results suggest that CS+ stimuli do not differentially impact working memory accuracy or storage compared to CS- and novel neutral stimuli, but require greater processing time to perform to the same degree in this condition. These results support previous findings demonstrating processing efficiency deficits for threat-related stimuli and generalize to stimuli that have acquired a threat attribute. The current study provides a greater understanding of how acquired threat-related stimuli impact working memory processes.

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Apr 16th, 1:15 PM

Effects of Differentially Conditioned Stimuli on Working Memory Processes

Current theories propose that threat-related stimuli are stored to a greater degree in working memory compared to neutral stimuli. However, much of this work has examined stimuli that hold physically relevant threat attributes (e.g., angry faces) and fails to address how a “neutral” stimulus that acquires a threat attribute through aversive conditioning influences working memory storage. The current study examined how both safe (i.e., CS-) and aversive-conditioned (i.e., CS+) stimuli influence working memory storage. Sixty-one participants completed a differential fear conditioning task followed by change-detection task. The change detection task consisted of three stimulus conditions: previously shown CS+ and CS- stimuli, and a novel “neutral” stimulus. The number of stimuli presented in each condition varied by load, with two target rectangles presented in a low load and four presented in a high load. We measured accuracy, response time (RT), and Pashler’s K scores (a behavioral estimate of working memory storage). Our results revealed no main effects across our three conditions (i.e., CS+, CS-, and novel neutral stimuli). However, we did approach significant condition by set size interaction effects for accuracy and RT. Further analyses examining our behavioral measures using only the CS+ and CS- conditions indicated longer RTs on CS+ compared to CS- trials. Therefore, our current results suggest that CS+ stimuli do not differentially impact working memory accuracy or storage compared to CS- and novel neutral stimuli, but require greater processing time to perform to the same degree in this condition. These results support previous findings demonstrating processing efficiency deficits for threat-related stimuli and generalize to stimuli that have acquired a threat attribute. The current study provides a greater understanding of how acquired threat-related stimuli impact working memory processes.