Supplementary Material for: Medial Prefrontal Cortex Activity during the Extinction of Conditioned Fear: An Investigation Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

The majority of fear conditioning studies in humans have focused on fear acquisition rather than fear extinction. For this reason only a few functional imaging studies on fear extinction are available. A large number of animal studies indicate the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) as neuronal substrate of extinction. We therefore determined mPFC contribution during extinction learning after a discriminative fear conditioning in 34 healthy human subjects by using functional near-infrared spectroscopy. During the extinction training, a previously conditioned neutral face (conditioned stimulus, CS+) no longer predicted an aversive scream (unconditioned stimulus, UCS). Considering differential valence and arousal ratings as well as skin conductance responses during the acquisition phase, we found a CS+ related increase in oxygenated haemoglobin concentration changes within the mPFC over the time course of extinction. Late CS+ trials further revealed higher activation than CS– trials in a cluster of probe set channels covering the mPFC. These results are in line with previous findings on extinction and further emphasize the mPFC as significant for associative learning processes. During extinction, the diminished fear association between a former CS+ and a UCS is inversely correlated with mPFC activity – a process presumably dysfunctional in anxiety disorders.