Human Hippocampus Arbitrates Approach-Avoidance Conflict

We developed a paradigm to investigate the role of human hippocampus in arbitrating an approach-avoidance conflict under varying levels of potential threat

Dominik R. Bach

2014

Scholarcy highlights

  • The possibility that a virtual predator might wake up and remove all tokens harvested during the epoch provides a potential threat, and avoidance motivation
  • Different from animal tasks that do not involve actual threat, in our task both approach and avoidance motivation were constant over successive trials, so as to avoid habituation
  • We focus on the foraging phase of the task, and this corresponds to the time within an epoch where the predator represents a potential threat but is inactive
  • We investigated seven patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and selective hippocampal sclerosis) and an age- and gendermatched group of 12 healthy volunteers
  • Future pharmacological experiments in rodents and humans might benefit from the type of manipulation we describe and could address whether anxiolytics impact on sensitivity to threat, or via a global reduction in behaviors associated with approach-avoidance conflict which does not depend on threat level
  • The findings bridge rodent and human research on passive avoidance and behavioral inhibition and furnish a framework for addressing the neuronal underpinnings of human anxiety disorders, where our data indicate a major role for the hippocampus

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