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Neural pattern similarity predicts long-term fear memory


Although certain changes in the brain may reflect fear learning, there are no known markers that indicate whether an aversive experience will develop into fear memory. We examined the moment-to-moment dynamics of human fear learning by applying multi-voxel pattern analysis to single-trial blood oxygen level–dependent magnetic resonance imaging data. We found that the long-term behavioral expression of fear memory could be predicted from neural patterns at the time of learning.

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Figure 1: A 42 × 42 correlation matrix containing within-stimulus and between-stimulus correlations of BOLD MRI patterns in the SFG during the learning phase (n = 38).
Figure 2: Neural pattern similarity versus average activation during different experimental phases.
Figure 3: Pupil dilation and neural pattern similarity split by long-term procedural fear memory.


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The authors thank J. Wijnen and M. Spaan for technical assistance. This work was supported by a Vici grant (M.K.) from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

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R.M.V., H.S.S. and M.K. designed the research. R.M.V. and T.B. performed the research and analyzed the data. H.S.S. contributed new analytic tools. H.S.S. and M.K. supervised the project. R.M.V. and M.K. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Merel Kindt.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Visser, R., Scholte, H., Beemsterboer, T. et al. Neural pattern similarity predicts long-term fear memory. Nat Neurosci 16, 388–390 (2013).

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