Behavioral, physiological and eeg activities associated with conditioned fear as sensors for fear and anxiety

Jui Hong Chien, Luana Colloca, Anna Korzeniewska, Timothy J. Meeker, O. Joe Bienvenu, Mark I. Saffer, Fred A. Lenz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Anxiety disorders impose substantial costs upon public health and productivity in the USA and worldwide. At present, these conditions are quantified by self-report questionnaires that only apply to behaviors that are accessible to consciousness, or by the timing of responses to fear-and anxiety-related words that are indirect since they do not produce fear, e.g., Dot Probe Test and emotional Stroop. We now review the conditioned responses (CRs) to fear produced by a neutral stimulus (conditioned stimulus CS+) when it cues a painful laser unconditioned stimulus (US). These CRs include autonomic (Skin Conductance Response) and ratings of the CS+ unpleasantness, ability to command attention, and the recognition of the association of CS+ with US (expectancy). These CRs are directly related to fear, and some measure behaviors that are minimally accessible to consciousness e.g., economic scales. Fear-related CRs include non-phase-locked phase changes in oscillatory EEG power defined by frequency and time post-stimulus over baseline, and changes in phase-locked visual and laser evoked responses both of which include late potentials reflecting attention or expectancy, like the P300, or contingent negative variation. Increases (ERS) and decreases (ERD) in oscillatory power post-stimulus may be generalizable given their consistency across healthy subjects. ERS and ERD are related to the ratings above as well as to anxious personalities and clinical anxiety and can resolve activity over short time intervals like those for some moods and emotions. These results could be incorporated into an objective instrumented test that measures EEG and CRs of autonomic activity and psychological ratings related to conditioned fear, some of which are subliminal. As in the case of instrumented tests of vigilance, these results could be useful for the direct, objective measurement of multiple aspects of the risk, diagnosis, and monitoring of therapies for anxiety disorders and anxious personalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6751
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 2 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Event Related Potential
  • Event Related Spectral Perturbation
  • Expectation
  • Fear
  • Fear conditioning
  • Human
  • Scalp EEG

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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