"Various studies have shown that extinction can be accelerated or reinforced in healthy individuals by administering the stress hormone cortisol," says Armin Zlomuzica. In these studies, patients always took cortisol prior to the therapy. The team from Bochum has now tested what happens if the drug is administered after exposure to the triggering object. The idea was that they would be able to use the pharmaceutical agent after successful exposure, thus reinforcing only the positive therapy outcomes.
50 individuals with arachnophobia took part in the study. Half of them were administered a cortisol tablet following exposure therapy, the other half were given a placebo. Before and after exposure, the researchers recorded the severity of each participant's fear of spiders. To this end, the patients assessed their own fear subjectively; in addition, a behavioural approach test was performed, in order to gain an objective measure of each patient's phobia. In the process, a therapist presents a spider...
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