Evidence of Altered Fear Extinction Learning in Individuals with High Vaccine Hesitancy During Covid-19 Pandemic

Carmelo M Vicario*, STERGIOS MAKRIS, Laura Culicetto, Chiara Lucifora, Alessandra Falzone, Gabriella Martino, Francesca Ferraioli, Michael A Nitsche, Alessio Avenanti, Giuseppe Craparo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

A relevance of fear and concerns about vaccine development and its side effects are suggested to explain COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. However, evidence supporting the phobic origin hypothesis of hesitancy for COVID-19 and other vaccinations remains indirect and elusive. We addressed this issue by investigating the existence of a relationship between fear conditioning, extinction, and the respective vaccination hesitancy and anxiety scores in a group of 25 individuals. Overall, we show that the general mechanism of fear extinction learning is impaired in individuals with high vaccine hesitancy. State and trait anxiety scores do not account for this result. These findings suggest that attitudes against vaccination could be linked to an altered inhibitory learning process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-369
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Neuropsychiatry
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2023

Keywords

  • vaccine hesitancy
  • pavlovian fear conditioning
  • fear extinction learning
  • anxiety
  • inhibitory learning process

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