Publications by authors named "Rachel Ahrenholtz"

5 Publications

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Registered report: A pilot investigation of acute exercise response among girls and young women with and without eating disorders.

Int J Eat Disord 2021 Jul 29. Epub 2021 Jul 29.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California - San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

Objective: Driven exercise (DEx) is a serious and common feature of eating disorders (EDs), but current understanding of factors that give rise to and maintain DEx is limited. DEx may be reinforced through its effects on the threat reduction and reward systems. The current protocol is designed to evaluate acute psychobiological response to exercise among female participants (age 16-22) with and without EDs.

Method: Twenty medically-stable participants with restrictive-spectrum EDs and 20 healthy control (HC) participants will complete study screening and three task visits which will include two 30-minute bouts of aerobic exercise.

Results: We aim to validate and demonstrate feasibility of two tasks capturing exercise response in this sample. Further, we will estimate the degree to which a bout of exercise impacts state body image, affect, and circulating concentrations of biological markers among participants, and we will examine whether the impact of exercise on psychological outcomes may differ across ED and HC groups.

Discussion: Completion of this project will contribute to the conceptualization of DEx and how individuals' acute biological and affective responses to exercise contribute to risk for and maintenance of DEx.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eat.23587DOI Listing
July 2021

Exercise-induced increases in Anandamide and BDNF during extinction consolidation contribute to reduced threat following reinstatement: Preliminary evidence from a randomized controlled trial.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2021 Jul 9;132:105355. Epub 2021 Jul 9.

University of Texas at Austin, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 1601 Trinity St, Bldg B, Austin, TX 78712, United States.

Introduction: We recently demonstrated that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise delivered during the consolidation of fear extinction learning reduced threat expectancy during a test of extinction recall among women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These findings suggest that exercise may be a potential candidate for improving the efficacy of exposure-based therapies, which are hypothesized to work via the mechanisms of fear extinction learning. The purpose of this secondary analysis was to examine whether exercise-induced increases in circulating concentrations of candidate biomarkers: endocannabinoids (anandamide [AEA]; 2-arachidonoylglycerol [2-AG], brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and homovanillic acid (HVA), mediate the effects of exercise on extinction recall.

Methods: Participants (N = 35) completed a 3-day fear acquisition (day 1), extinction (day 2), and extinction recall (day 3) protocol, in which participants were randomly assigned to complete either moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (EX) or a light-intensity control (CON) condition following extinction training (day 2). Blood was obtained prior to and following EX or CON. Threat expectancy ratings during tests of extinction recall (i.e., initial fear recall and fear recall following reinstatement) were obtained 24 h following EX or CON. Mediation was tested using linear-mixed effects models and bootstrapping of the indirect effect.

Results: Circulating concentrations of AEA and BDNF (but not 2-AG and HVA) were found to mediate the relationship between moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and reduced threat expectancy ratings following reinstatement (AEA 95% CI: -0.623 to -0.005; BDNF 95% CI: -0.941 to -0.005).

Conclusions: Exercise-induced increases in peripheral AEA and BDNF appear to play a role in enhancing consolidation of fear extinction learning, thereby leading to reduced threat expectancies following reinstatement among women with PTSD. Future mechanistic research examining these and other biomarkers (e.g., brain-based biomarkers) is warranted.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105355DOI Listing
July 2021

Unique neurocircuitry activation profiles during fear conditioning and extinction among women with posttraumatic stress disorder.

J Psychiatr Res 2021 09 6;141:257-266. Epub 2021 Jul 6.

University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Electronic address:

Background: Neurocircuitry models of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggest specific alterations in brain structures linked with fear conditioning and extinction. Most models assume a unitary pattern of neurocircuitry dysfunction in PTSD and little attention has focused on defining unique profiles of neurocircuitry engagement (i.e., biotypes), despite known clinical heterogeneity in PTSD. Here, we aim to address this gap using a data-driven approach to characterize unique neurocircuitry profiles among women with PTSD.

Methods: Seventy-six women with PTSD related to assaultive violence exposure competed a task during fMRI that alternated between fear conditioning, where a geometric shape predicted the occurrence of an electric shock, and fear extinction, where the geometric shape no longer predicted electric shock. A multivariate clustering analysis was applied to neurocircuitry patterns constrained within an a priori mask of structures linked with emotion processing. Resulting biotypes were compared on clinical measures of neurocognition, trauma exposure, general mental health symptoms, and PTSD symptoms and on psychophysiological responding during the task.

Results: The clustering analysis identified three biotypes (BT), differentiated by patterns of engagement within salience, default mode, and visual processing networks. BT1 was characterized by higher working memory, fewer general mental health symptoms, and low childhood sexual abuse, and lower PTSD symptom severity. BT2 was characterized by lower verbal IQ but better extinction learning as defined by psychophysiology and threat expectancy. BT3 was characterized by low childhood sexual abuse, anxious arousal, and re-experiencing symptoms.

Conclusion: This data demonstrates unique profiles of neurocircuitry engagement in PTSD, each associated with different clinical characteristics, and suggests further research defining distinct biotypes of PTSD. Clinicaltrials.gov, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/home, NCT02560389.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.07.007DOI Listing
September 2021

Aerobic exercise and consolidation of fear extinction learning among women with posttraumatic stress disorder.

Behav Res Ther 2021 07 27;142:103867. Epub 2021 Apr 27.

University of Wisconsin, Department of Psychiatry, 6001 Research Park Boulevard, Madison, WI, 53719-1176, USA. Electronic address:

This study tested whether aerobic exercise delivered during the consolidation window following fear extinction learning reduces the return of fear among women with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Participants (n=35) completed an initial clinical assessment followed by a 3-day fear acquisition, extinction, and recall protocol. On day 1, participants completed a fear acquisition training task in which one geometric shape (conditioning stimulus; CS+) was paired (with 50% probability) with a mild electric shock (unconditioned stimulus; US), while a different shape (CS-) was never paired with the US. On day 2 (24 h later), participants completed a fear extinction training task in which the CS+ no longer predicted administration of the US. Shortly following extinction, participants were randomly assigned to complete either moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (EX) or a light-intensity exercise control (CON) condition. On day 3 (24 h later), participants completed fear recall tests assessing the return of fear (spontaneous recovery, renewal, and reinstatement). Fear responding was assessed via threat expectancy ratings and skin conductance responses (SCR). In the threat expectancy ratings, there were no significant differences between groups in spontaneous recovery; however, EX significantly (p=.02) reduced threat expectancy ratings following reinstatement relative to CON. In SCR measures, there were no significant differences between groups in spontaneous recovery, renewal, or reinstatement. These results support a role for moderate-intensity aerobic exercise during the consolidation window in reducing threat expectations following reinstatement in women with PTSD. Research should continue to examine exercise as a potential method for improving the efficacy of exposure-based therapies. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04113798.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2021.103867DOI Listing
July 2021

College students' hookup motivations as predictors of the positivity and negativity of their most recent hookup experience.

J Am Coll Health 2021 Jan 31:1-7. Epub 2021 Jan 31.

Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Platteville, Wisconsin, USA.

Objective: Previous research has found that college students experience both positive and negative outcomes after a hookup. The present study examined the role that hookup motives and sex play in determining the overall positivity and negativity of the experience. College students ( = 156) completed an online survey about their most recent hookup. The survey assessed hookup motivations and outcomes. Lower coping motives and higher social-sexual, relationship-seeking, and enhancement motives predicted more positive outcomes. Higher coping motives and lower social-sexual, conformity, and enhancement motives predicted more negative outcomes. For men, positive outcomes were correlated with weaker enhancement motives, while negative outcomes were correlated with more enhancement motives. For women, higher levels of positive outcomes were positively correlated with enhancement, social-sexual, and relationship-seeking motives, while negative outcomes were negatively correlated with social-sexual, enhancement, and coping motives. The results of this study have implications for risk prevention and future research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2020.1865378DOI Listing
January 2021
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