Chronotypes are the patterns of our circadian preferences; more specifically, they refer to the variations in productivity that each individual possesses in response to the times of sleep and wakefulness that occur throughout the course of a 24-hour day.
If we are more active in the evening or at dawn and want to stay up later, we may be considered evening types. If, on the other hand, we prefer to get up early and perform well in activities that begin in the morning, we may be considered morning types. We may also be considered intermediate types if we readily adjust to both morning and evening routines. Given their potential to shed light on the origins of mental illnesses such as anxiety as well as a post-traumatic stress disorder, circadian rhythms have received a growing amount of research in recent years.
Researchers from the University of Messina enlisted 40 participants for their latest study. Of those participants, 20 had an evening chronotype, while the other 20 had an intermediate chronotype. The subjects were asked to complete a Pavlovian fear learning as well as an extinction VR task over the course of two days.
- Evening chronotype has been associated with enhanced risk to develop anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- We examined the role of chronotype to predict fear conditioning and extinction.
- We found higher fear acquisition in evening compared to intermediate chronotype.
The findings acquired in the two groups demonstrated a larger fear acquisition reaction in those with evening chronotypes compared to participants with intermediate chronotypes. This confirmed previous research that linked evening chronotypes to a greater risk of anxiety disorders.
This research expands our understanding of the role of circadian rhythms in mental processes by indicating that the evening chronotype’s increased susceptibility to anxiety and related diseases may be mediated by different fear acquisition.