Fear to predictable threat and anxiety to unpredictable threat reflect distinct processes mediated by different brain structures, the central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), respectively. This study tested the hypothesis that the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF1) antagonist GSK561679 differentially reduces anxiety but increases fear in humans. A total of 31 healthy females received each of four treatments: placebo, 50 mg GSK561679 (low-GSK), 400 mg GSK561679 (high-GSK), and 1 mg alprazolam in a crossover design. Participants were exposed to three conditions during each of the four treatments. The three conditions included one in which predictable aversive shocks were signaled by a cue, a second during which shocks were administered unpredictably, and a third condition without shock. Fear and anxiety were assessed using the acoustic startle reflex. High-GSK had no effect on startle potentiation during unpredictable threat (anxiety) but increased startle potentiation during the predictable condition (fear). Low-GSK did not affect startle potentiation across conditions. Consistent with previous findings, alprazolam reduced startle potentiation during unpredictable threat but not during predictable threat. The increased fear by high-GSK replicates animal findings and suggests a lift of the inhibitory effect of the BNST on the amygdala by the CRF 1 antagonist.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health