Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists find more efficient way to ’unlearn’ fear

07.10.2003


Could help improve treatment of anxiety

Behavior therapists may have a better way to help anxious patients, thanks to insights from a UCLA study of different ways to get mice past their fears. Rodents have long been used to study learning by association. Neuroscientists compared different ways of exposing mice to a stimulus that they had learned to fear, and found that "massing" the feared stimulus -– delivering it in concentrated bursts, not pacing it with longer pauses in between -- was surprisingly efficient at helping to erase its impact. This study appears in the October issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

According to the authors, doctoral students Christopher Cain and Ashley Blouin, and Mark Barad, M.D., Ph.D., these findings are significant for clinical behavioral therapy, which has been scientifically proven to work in a range of human anxiety disorders, including specific phobias, panic disorder, social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.



At the University of California, Los Angeles, the researchers taught mice (in most conditions, eight at a time) to fear harmless white noise by associating it with a mild shock delivered through the floor of the experimental cage. After a couple of trials, the mice "froze" –- just stopped moving, a fear response –- for about 72 seconds, or 60 percent of the two minutes of white noise. Thus, the white noise became what’s called a "conditioned stimulus." It may not have been the original source of pain, but it became sufficiently associated with pain to cause fear all by itself.

Next, Cain and his colleagues separated the mice into three groups and measured how well they overcame their aversion to white noise when they heard it 20 times for two minutes each, without shocks -– with intervals of six, 60 or 600 seconds between each presentation. Repeatedly presenting a conditioned stimulus has long been known to "extinguish" a fear by exposing animals (including humans) to that stimulus without associated pain. In the study, for example, some of the mice learned to trust that white noise would not come with shocks. In a human parallel, someone who had developed a fear of dogs after being bitten could be exposed to playful, gentle dogs as a way to re-learn that most are safe.

The only catch is that anxiety is like an unwanted houseguest: It breezes in quickly, without invitation, and is hard to kick out, as is clear from the fact that the mice feared the white noise after two exposures, but needed far more than two exposures to get over it –- and only under certain conditions. Thus, approaches that make treatment more efficient are high on therapists’ wish lists.

Cain and his colleagues found that both short-term and long-term fear extinction (immediate and one day later) were greater with "temporally massed" presentations of the stimulus, which had six-second intervals between each of the 20 bursts of white noise. The six-second-gap mice stopped showing significant freezing after about 10 presentations of white noise, or 20 minutes’ worth. The mice in the other two groups never really stopped freezing.

Given these important findings, the authors say, "Therapists may wish to incorporate some massing of anxiogenic stimuli into exposure therapy sessions to more quickly reduce the aversiveness of therapy and increase the patient’s willingness to continue with treatment."

"This very strong finding," says co-author Mark Barad, M.D., Ph.D., "is already inspiring a search for a similar pattern of response in human anxiety patients. It’s part of a recent wave of important discoveries about fear extinction, findings that will transform both the practice of behavior therapy and the use of drugs as adjuncts to psychotherapy in the next few years."


Article: Christopher K. Cain, B.A.; Ashley M. Blouin, B.A.; Mark Barad, M.D., Ph.D., "Temporally Massed CS Presentations Generate More Fear Extinction Than Spaced Presentations," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, Vol. 29, No. 4.

(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/releases/conditionalfear_article.pdf)

Mark Barad can be reached by email at mbarad@mednet.ucla.edu or by phone at 310-794-9410. The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

Pam Willenz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.apa.org/
http://www.apa.org/releases/conditionalfear_article.pdf

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance
25.09.2017 | Institut Pasteur

nachricht MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer
25.09.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>