Magic Mustang Tamer

Alleviating Fear: my reading

Each paper in the “My Reading” series is an interpretation of a scientific paper on a topic of interest to animal trainers. This paper is presented to provide a way to think about fear reduction strategies.

Pharmacology of cognitive enhancers for exposure-based therapy of fear, anxiety and trauma-related disorders

READ — Date: 11 March 2020 Reason: looking for new models of fear reduction

CITATION: Singewald, N., Schmuckermair, C., Whittle, N., Holmes, A., & Ressler, K. J. (2015). Pharmacology of cognitive enhancers for exposure-based therapy of fear, anxiety and trauma-related disorders. Pharmacology & therapeutics149, 150-190.

KEYWORDS: pharmacology, exposure therapy, fear alleviation, synaptic efficacy

QUESTIONS ASKED: What are the key places in the fear alleviation model where intervention is possible?

METHOD/APPROACH: Review of the pharmalogical treatments of fear alleviation in terms of action in the model.

SIGNIFICANCE: Articulates specific points in the fear model where alleviation is likely

Singewald, et al. 2015 Fear Alleviation Model


Singewald et al., 2015 Phases of the Fear Model
Singewald et al., Anatomy of fear extinction and expression

Phases in the Model

  • Conditioning or acquisition of fear (the training phase)
  • Consolidation of fear (moves it to long term memory)
  • Extinction of fear (acquisition of extinction)
  • Consolidation of extinction
  • If fear is still available for retrieval
    • spontaneous recovery
    • renewal (the CS stimulates again)
    • reinstatement (the US reoccurs)
  • After extinction, if the CS occurs again, the memory becomes malleable and reconsolidation can be impacted.

It is necessary to have a way to measure fear in order to look for fear extinction. Typical measures (in rats) include freezing, fear-potentiated startle, and increased heart rate. Reduction in fear is the way to evaluate treatment.

Normal fear processing involves a balance between extinction memory and fear memory. Extinction memory tends to be fragile, fear memory is more durable. The goal has to be to overcome the fragility and bolster the formation and persistence of extinction memory.


  • anxiety disorder – inability to extinguish fear or respond to safety signals.
  • extinction can be considered a violation of the CS=US contingency or could be considered relearning a new contingency.
  •  extinction retrieval – if extinction is not retrieved, then fear returns.
  • consolidation phase – when neural network changes in response to experience, and the pattern is impressed into the system, changing synaptic efficacy. Consolidation must follow the fear or extinction experience for the pattern to be learned.


  • Does the renewal of fear make it available to extinguish by non-pharmacological methods?
  • Can cannabinoids be used to facilitate deepened extinction?
  • Is suppression a good measure of fear?
  •  Can the finer details of anatomy suggest other timing or strategies for a trainer?

2 thoughts on “Alleviating Fear: my reading


    Interesting questions here -definitley applies to all kinds of fear in beings, not just horses. It was hard to follow the flow charts, maybe because I’m not familiar with all the terms, etc.

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