Taking Fear Out of Context

December 6, 2023 @ 04:00 pm to 05:00 pm

Sydney Trask, Purdue University

108 Wartik Laboratory
University Park


The environment, or context, where events take place can not only influence how we learn about those events, but also become inextricably linked to subsequent memories. Following fear learning, organisms can use context to guide behavioral responding. However, in several conditions ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder or age-related memory impairments, contextual learning is impaired or aberrant. In my lab, we use various types of aversive learning to understand how we learn about the context with a focus on reducing fear behavior in a way that reduces the context-dependency of inhibition using stimulus revaluation approaches. We find that these processes are similar to extinction and rely on a distributed neural network for both acquisition and expression, but crucially, are context-independent. These methods provide promising avenues to produce relapse-resistant reductions in fear behavior in a variety of conditions in which contextual learning has become maladaptive without.

About the Speaker:

Sydney received her bachelor’s degree from Kent State University prior to earning her PhD at the University of Vermont. After completing her postdoctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she began her independent research group at Purdue University where she is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior in the Department of Psychological Sciences. She also holds appointments with the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience and the Purdue Center on Aging and the Life Course. Her lab studies the ways the brain encodes, stores, retrieves, and updates memory with a particular focus in understanding memory for context, or the environment in which events take place.


Janine Kwapis