Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty: How intolerance of uncertainty and trait anxiety impact fear acquisition, extinction and the return of fear

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung


  • Adrian Wroblewski - , Philipps-Universität Marburg (Autor:in)
  • Maike Hollandt - , Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Autor:in)
  • Yunbo Yang - , Philipps-Universität Marburg (Autor:in)
  • Isabelle C. Ridderbusch - , Philipps-Universität Marburg (Autor:in)
  • Anne Pietzner - , Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Autor:in)
  • Christoph Szeska - , Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Autor:in)
  • Martin Lotze - , Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Autor:in)
  • Hans Ulrich Wittchen - , Institut für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) (Autor:in)
  • Ingmar Heinig - , Institut für Klinische Psychologie und Psychotherapie (Autor:in)
  • Andre Pittig - , Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Autor:in)
  • Volker Arolt - , Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (Autor:in)
  • Katja Koelkebeck - , Universität Duisburg-Essen (Autor:in)
  • Constantin A. Rothkopf - , Technische Universität Darmstadt (Autor:in)
  • Dirk Adolph - , Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Autor:in)
  • Jürgen Margraf - , Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Autor:in)
  • Ulrike Lueken - , Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Autor:in)
  • Paul Pauli - , Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (Autor:in)
  • Martin J. Herrmann - , Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (Autor:in)
  • Markus H. Winkler - , Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (Autor:in)
  • Andreas Ströhle - , Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Autor:in)
  • Udo Dannlowski - , Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster (Autor:in)
  • Tilo Kircher - , Philipps-Universität Marburg (Autor:in)
  • Alfons O. Hamm - , Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Autor:in)
  • Benjamin Straube - , Philipps-Universität Marburg (Gemeinsame:r Letztautor:in)
  • Jan Richter - , Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald (Gemeinsame:r Letztautor:in)


It is hypothesized that the ability to discriminate between threat and safety is impaired in individuals with high dispositional negativity, resulting in maladaptive behavior. A large body of research investigated differential learning during fear conditioning and extinction protocols depending on individual differences in intolerance of uncertainty (IU) and trait anxiety (TA), two closely-related dimensions of dispositional negativity, with heterogenous results. These might be due to varying degrees of induced threat/safety uncertainty. Here, we compared two groups with high vs. low IU/TA during periods of low (instructed fear acquisition) and high levels of uncertainty (delayed non-instructed extinction training and reinstatement). Dependent variables comprised subjective (US expectancy, valence, arousal), psychophysiological (skin conductance response, SCR, and startle blink), and neural (fMRI BOLD) measures of threat responding. During fear acquisition, we found strong threat/safety discrimination for both groups. During early extinction (high uncertainty), the low IU/TA group showed an increased physiological response to the safety signal, resulting in a lack of CS discrimination. In contrast, the high IU/TA group showed strong initial threat/safety discrimination in physiology, lacking discriminative learning on startle, and reduced neural activation in regions linked to threat/safety processing throughout extinction training indicating sustained but non-adaptive and rigid responding. Similar neural patterns were found after the reinstatement test. Taken together, we provide evidence that high dispositional negativity, as indicated here by IU and TA, is associated with greater responding to threat cues during the beginning of delayed extinction, and, thus, demonstrates altered learning patterns under changing environments.


Seiten (von - bis)125-140
FachzeitschriftInternational journal of psychophysiology
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 15 Sept. 2022

Externe IDs

PubMed 36116610
ORCID /0000-0002-7762-4327/work/141543450



  • Dispositional negativity, Fear conditioning, fMRI, Intolerance of uncertainty, Psychophysiology, Trait anxiety, Galvanic Skin Response, Uncertainty, Humans, Anxiety, Fear/physiology, Extinction, Psychological/physiology