Eyelid conditional discrimination learning (ECDL) is a test of discriminative aversive conditioning. It places minimal demands on motivation and was shown to selectively test temporal lobe function. Twenty-five unmedicated social phobia (SP) patients (mean age 29.5 ± 7.0 years), diagnosed according to DSM-IV criteria, and 25 age- and gender-matched healthy controls (HC, mean age 34.0 ± 8.6 years) were examined with an ECDL paradigm. In the experiment two differently colored stimuli are randomly presented. Only one of the stimuli (reinforced trial) is followed by an aversive airpuff to the cornea, as opposed to unreinforced trials not followed by an airpuff. Conditioned responses (CRs) consist of reflex eyelid closures already upon light presentation. HC as well as SP patients showed a significant difference between reinforced and unreinforced trials. In SP patients, CR frequency did not increase during the ECDL task, while HCs showed appropriate conditional discrimination ability. Thus the results indicate an impairment of adequate behavior modification in an aversive conditioning task in SP.

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