Last updated on February 2018

Effects of Low-Level Laser Stimulation With and Without Fear Extinction Training

Brief description of study

There are two specific aims for this study. Aim 1 is to test whether low-level laser therapy (LLLT) can enhance the efficacy of fear extinction training in the modification of pathological fear. Aim 2 is to investigate the efficacy of low-level laser therapy (LLLT) as a stand-alone intervention for anxiety/phobias.

Detailed Study Description

Preliminary research with non-human animals suggests that LLLT (i.e., ultra low doses of transcranial infrared light) can enhance the retention of fear extinction learning by up regulating neuronal metabolic activity when applied to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Furthermore, evidence from a previous uncontrolled trial with humans suggests that LLLT (outside the context of extinction training) can lead to a significant decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety when applied to the right and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (dlPFC). The first aim of this study is to test whether LLLT can boost fear reduction after extinction training in humans. A second aim of this study is to investigate the efficacy of LLLT as a stand-alone anxiolytic intervention in a randomized controlled trial.

Individuals between the ages of 18-65 with elevated fear in any of one of four domains (e.g., fear of enclosed spaces, fear of contamination, fear of public speaking, or anxiety sensitivity) are randomly assigned to one of four treatment arms (1) Extinction Training with LLLT, (2) Extinction Training with Sham LLLT, (3) LLLT alone, or (4) Sham LLLT alone.

To determine eligibility, all participants undergo an online prescreen and a face-to-face screening assessment. Participants who qualify for the study then complete a baseline (pre-treatment) assessment, followed immediately by the treatment procedure and a post-treatment assessment. Participants return to the lab an average of 14 days after treatment to complete a follow-up assessment. Participants complete two behavioral approach tests (in the treatment context and in the generalization context) at baseline, post-treatment, and follow-up, and a battery of self-report questionnaires at baseline and follow-up.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT02926352

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