A1 Journal article (refereed)
Intranasal oxytocin decreases fear generalization in males, but does not modulate discrimination threshold (2021)

Dou, H., Zou, L., Becker, B., & Lei, Y. (2021). Intranasal oxytocin decreases fear generalization in males, but does not modulate discrimination threshold. Psychopharmacology, 238(3), 677-689. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05720-8

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editorsDou, Haoran; Zou, Liye; Becker, Benjamin; Lei, Yi

Journal or seriesPsychopharmacology



Publication year2021


Issue number3

Pages range677-689


Publication countryGermany

Publication languageEnglish


Publication open accessNot open

Publication channel open access

Publication is parallel published (JYX)https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/80490


Background: A previously acquired fear response often spreads to perceptually or conceptually close stimuli or contexts. This process, known as fear generalization, facilitates the avoidance of danger, and dysregulations in this process play an important role in anxiety disorders. Oxytocin (OT) has been shown to modulate fear learning, yet effects on fear generalization remain unknown.

Methods: We employed a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, between-subject design during which healthy male participants received either intranasal OT or placebo (PLC) following fear acquisition and before fear generalization with concomitant acquisition of skin conductance responses (SCRs). Twenty-four to 72 h before the fear learning and immediately after the fear generalization task, participants additionally complete a discrimination threshold task.

Results: Relative to PLC, OT significantly reduced perceived risk and SCRs towards the CS+ and GS1 (the generalization stimulus that is most similar to CS+) during fear generalization, whereas the discrimination threshold was not affected.

Conclusions: Together, the results suggest that OT can attenuate fear generalization in the absence of effects on discrimination threshold. This study provides the first evidence for effects of OT on fear generalization in humans and suggests that OT may have therapeutic potential in anxiety disorders characterized by dysregulated fear generalization.

Keywordsfear (emotions)conditioning (passive)anxiety disordersoxytocin

Free keywordsdiscrimination threshold; fear generalization; oxytocin; skin conductance responses (SCRs).

Contributing organizations

Ministry reportingYes

Reporting Year2021

JUFO rating1

Last updated on 2024-22-04 at 18:09