Evening chronotype individuals show higher vulnerability to anxiety and related disorders

Studies show that the higher vulnerability of evening chronotype individuals (individuals who tend to be more productive at night or early in the morning) to anxiety and related disorders may be mediated by altered emotional learning.

Do you know what your chronotype is? Chronotypes are our circadian preference profiles, that is, they refer to individual differences in performance in relation to the sleep and wakefulness periods of the 24-hour day. We can be a morning type (if we prefer to get up early and perform well in activities that start in the morning), an evening type (if we are more productive at night or early in the morning and prefer to get up later), or an intermediate (if we have a morning and evening schedule). adapts easily).

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Circadian rhythms are increasingly being studied because they may help understand the onset of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this sense, researchers Chiara Lucifora, Giorgio M. Grasso, Michael A. Nietzsche, Giovanni D’Italia, Mauro Sortino, Mohammed A. Salehinejad, Alessandra Falzone, Alessio Avenanti, and Carmelo M. Vicario adopted the classic Pavlovian paradigm of fear conditioning. Studying the neurocognitive basis of the relationship between chronotype and fear reactivity in healthy humans.

In the paper “Enhanced fear acquisition in individuals with nocturnal chronology. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study,” published in the August 2022 Journal of Affective Disorders, researchers from the Università degli Studi di Messina and the Università di Bologna (Italy), Leibniz Research Center for Working Environment and Human Factors (Germany) and Universidad Católica Del Maule (Chile) explain that they used 40 participants, 20 with evening chronotype and 20 controls (ie, intermediate chronotype) among students at the University of Messina. Complete a 2-day Pavlovian fear learning and extinction virtual reality task.

To our knowledge, only one study to date (Pace-Schott et al., 2015) has explored the role of chronotype on fear acquisition and extinction in healthy humans, but did not test intermediate chronotypes, ideal control groups as they are. the most frequent chronotype in the population (Partonen, 2015).”

Carmelo M. Vicario, Researcher, BIAL Foundation

The results obtained in the two groups showed a higher fear acquisition response in the evening chronotype individuals compared to the central chronotype participants, which confirms the previous evidence that the evening chronotype is associated with a higher risk of anxiety disorders (Alvaro et al., 2014; Park et al., 2015) and PTSD (e.g. ., Hasler et al., 2013; Yun et al., 2015).

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“This study provides new insights into the influence of circadian rhythms on cognitive and emotional processes, suggesting that evening chronotypes’ higher vulnerability to anxiety and related disorders may be mediated by altered fear acquisition,” says Vicario.

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Journal Reference:

Lucifera, C., And so on and so forth. (2022) Increased fear in individuals with evening chronology. A virtual reality fear conditioning/extinction study. Journal of Affective Disorders. doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2022.05.033.


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