In this study, our team investigated the question of whether humans build quicker and more robust memory traces for stimuli that signal an impending pain increase than for those that signal a decrease in pain. From an evolutionary perspective, this could be seen as a “better safe than sorry” strategy. Using an intricate experimental design, it was possible to demonstrate that healthy volunteers learned pain-predicting stimuli better and faster than stimuli that predicted pain relief. Such a learning strategy could be a protective mechanism to avoid potentially dangerous situations. However, there were few differences with respect to “unlearning” (i.e., extinction) between the stimuli. This suggests that learning and unlearning of (un)pleasant associations are based on different mechanisms. The results of this study, which was part of the Collaborative Research Centre “Extinction Learning, 1280” by the DFG, help us to further understand the mechanisms behind the chronification and maintenance of pain disorders. Read the full article here.