Commentary| Volume 87, ISSUE 10, P870-871, May 15, 2020

Aversive Stimulus Pairings Are an Unnecessary and Insufficient Cause of Pathological Anxiety

  • Bram Vervliet
    Address correspondence to Bram Vervliet, Ph.D., Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Psychology and Educational Sciences, Tiensestraat 102, Leuven 3000, Belgium.
    Laboratory of Biological Psychology, Department of Brain and Cognition, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

    Leuven Brain Institute, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
    Search for articles by this author
  • Yannick Boddez
    Center for the Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

    Department of Experimental, Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
    Search for articles by this author
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Biological Psychiatry
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Abend R.
        • Gold A.L.
        • Britton J.C.
        • Michalska K.J.
        • Shechner T.
        • Sachs J.F.
        • et al.
        Anticipatory threat responding: Associations with anxiety, development, and brain structure.
        Biol Psychiatry. 2020; 87: 916-925
        • De Houwer J.
        Revisiting classical conditioning as a model for anxiety disorders: A conceptual analysis and brief review.
        Behav Res Ther. 2020; 127: 103558
        • Watson J.B.
        • Rayner R.
        Conditioned emotional reactions.
        J Exp Psychol. 1920; 3: 1-14
        • Kamin L.J.
        Predictability, surprise, attention, and conditioning.
        in: Campbell B.A. Church R.M. Punishment Aversive Behavior. Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York1969: 279-296
        • De Houwer J.
        • Hughes S.
        The Psychology of Learning: An Introduction from a Functional-Cognitive Perspective.
        The MIT Press, Boston2020
        • Rachman S.
        The conditioning theory of fear acquisition: A critical examination.
        Behav Res Ther. 1977; 15: 375-387
        • Mineka S.
        • Zinbarg R.
        A contemporary learning theory perspective on the etiology of anxiety disorders: It’s not what you thought it was.
        Am Psychol. 2006; 61: 10-26
        • Pittig A.
        • Treanor M.
        • LeBeau R.T.
        • Craske M.G.
        The role of associative fear and avoidance learning in anxiety disorders: Gaps and directions for future research.
        Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018; 88: 117-140

      Linked Article

      • Anticipatory Threat Responding: Associations With Anxiety, Development, and Brain Structure
        Biological PsychiatryVol. 87Issue 10
        • Preview
          While translational theories link neurodevelopmental changes in threat learning to pathological anxiety, findings from studies in patients inconsistently support these theories. This inconsistency may reflect difficulties in studying large patient samples with wide age ranges using consistent methods. A dearth of imaging data in patients further limits translational advances. We address these gaps through a psychophysiology and structural brain imaging study in a large sample of patients across the lifespan.
        • Full-Text
        • PDF