The influence of vicarious fear-learning in "infecting" reactive action inhibition

Battaglia, S., Cardellicchio, P., Di Fazio, C., Nazzi, C., Fracasso, A. and Borgomaneri, S. (2022) The influence of vicarious fear-learning in "infecting" reactive action inhibition. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 16, 946263. (doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2022.946263) (PMID:35941933) (PMCID:PMC9355887)

[img] Text
273432.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.



Since the dawn of cognitive neuroscience, emotions have been recognized to impact on several executive processes, such as action inhibition. However, the complex interplay between emotional stimuli and action control is not yet fully understood. One way to measure inhibitory control is the stop-signal task (SST), which estimates the ability to cancel outright an action to the presentation of a stop signal by means of the stop-signal reaction times (SSRTs). Impaired as well as facilitated action control has been found when faced with intrinsic emotional stimuli as stop signals in SSTs. Here, we aimed at investigating more deeply the power of negative stimuli to influence our action control, testing the hypothesis that a previously neutral stimulus [i.e., the image of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)], which has been conditioned through vicarious fear learning, has the same impact on reactive action inhibition performance as an intrinsically negative stimulus (i.e., a fearful face or body). Action control capabilities were tested in 90 participants by means of a SST, in which the stop signals were represented by different negative stimuli. Results showed that the SARS-CoV-2 image enhanced the ability to suppress an ongoing action similarly to observing fearful facial expressions or fearful body postures. Interestingly, we found that this effect was predicted by impulsivity traits: for example, the less self-control the participants had, the less they showed emotional facilitation for inhibitory performance. These results demonstrated that vicarious fear learning has a critical impact on cognitive abilities, making a neutral image as threatening as phylogenetically innate negative stimuli and able to impact on our behavioral control.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:SARS-CoV-2, vicarious fear-learning, action inhibition, negative emotion, stop-signal task (SST).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fracasso, Dr Alessio
Authors: Battaglia, S., Cardellicchio, P., Di Fazio, C., Nazzi, C., Fracasso, A., and Borgomaneri, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
Publisher:Frontiers Media
ISSN (Online):1662-5153
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 Battaglia, Cardellicchio, Di Fazio, Nazzi, Fracasso and Borgomaneri
First Published:First published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 16: 946263
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
303685Stable perception of external stimuli over time: oculo-motor and visual processing mechanismsAlessio FracassoBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)BB/S006605/1Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging