Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

L-dopa medication could be helpful in the treatment of phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder

10.07.2014

Scientists at Mainz and Innsbruck explore new treatment approach to overcome fear

A drug used to treat Parkinson's disease could also help people with phobias or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Scientists of the Translational Neurosciences (FTN) Research Center at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) are currently exploring the effects of psychotherapy to extinguish fears in combination with L-dopa. This drug does not only help movement disorders, but might also be used to override negative memories.

Professor Raffael Kalisch, head of the Neuroimaging Center (NIC) of the JGU Translational Neurosciences Research Center, and his collaborators at the University of Innsbruck are conducting research in mice and in humans into the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of anxiety and fear.

"Fear reactions are essential to health and survival, but the memories of angst-inducing situations may cause long-term anxiety or phobias," explained Kalisch. In psychotherapy, the 'fear extinction' method is used in exposing people to a threat but without the adverse consequences. Latest research has proven that extinguishing fear also predicts mental health after trauma, suggesting extinction may be an important resilience mechanism.

Fear extinction involves a person being presented with a neutral stimulus, such as a circle on a screen, together with a painful sensation. Soon the person predicts pain in response to the circle on the screen and fear becomes conditioned. Then the person is shown the circle again, but this time without the painful stimulus, so that the person can disassociate the two factors. A person who is afraid of spiders, for example, will in psychotherapy be confronted with spiders in a way that reassures them that the spider is harmless.

In another research program, Belgian scientists tested the ability to extinguish fear in soldiers later deployed to a war zone and found differences in the soldiers' resilience to traumatic memories. Some experienced post-traumatic stress symptoms following their deployment, whereas those who were able to extinguish fear in the laboratory maintained a good state of mental health.

"If you are mentally flexible enough to change the associations that your mind has created, you might be better able to avoid lasting damage," explained Kalisch. In cooperation with other scientists, Kalisch has found first evidence that this process of changing negative associations might involve the brain's systems for reward and pleasure and depend on release of the neurotransmitter dopamine that helps control them.

However, even after successful extinction, old fear associations can return under other stressful circumstances. This might involve the development of PTSD or a relapse after successful psychotherapy. Kalisch has found that L-dopa, a drug to treat Parkinson's disease, can prevent this effect and could therefore possibly be used to prevent relapse in treated PTSD or phobia patients. L-dopa is taken up by the brain and transformed into dopamine that not only controls the brain's reward and pleasure centers and helps regulate movement, but also affects memory formation.

The person receiving L-dopa after extinction will thus create a stronger secondary positive memory of the extinction experience and will thus be able to more easily replace the negative memory. This raises new questions about the role of primary fear memories and secondary prevention by L-dopa. "We would like to be able to enhance the long-term effects of psychotherapy by combining it with L-dopa," said Professor Raffael Kalisch. To this end, he is about to start a clinical study of people with a spider phobia to determine the effects of L-dopa on therapy outcome. "Manipulating the dopamine system in the brain is a promising avenue to boost primary and secondary preventive strategies based on the extinction procedure," he continued.

Abstract Reference R10221: Fear extinction as a key human resilience mechanism: dopaminergic contributions.
Symposia S30: Ramping up resilience: from (epi) genetics, to optogenetics and imaging

Single dose of L-dopa makes extinction memories context-independent and prevents the return of fear. J Haaker, S Gaburro, A Sah, N Gartmann, TB Lonsdorf, K Meier, N Singewald, H-C Pape, F Morellini, R Kalisch. PNAS Plus - Biological Sciences - Psychological and Cognitive Sciences. 2013; 110 (26): E2428-36.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1303061110

Empirical support for an involvement of the mesostriatal dopamine system in human fear extinction. K A Raczka, A Reif; J Deckert, N Gartmann, M-L Mechias, M Pessiglione, R Kalisch. Translational Psychiatry. 2011; 1: e12.
DOI:10.1038/tp.2011.10

Contact
Professor Raffael Kalisch
Neuroimaging Center (NIC) at the Research Center Translational Neurosciences (FTN)
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
phone +49 6131 17-4588
e-mail: rkalisch@uni-mainz.de
http://www.ftn.nic.uni-mainz.de/en/raffael-kalisch

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.uni-mainz.de/presse/17457_ENG_HTML.php - press release

Petra Giegerich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Microgel powder fights infection and helps wounds heal
14.11.2018 | Michigan Technological University

nachricht Spread of deadly eye cancer halted in cells and animals
13.11.2018 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Putting food-safety detection in the hands of consumers

15.11.2018 | Information Technology

Insect Antibiotic Provides New Way to Eliminate Bacteria

15.11.2018 | Life Sciences

New findings help to better calculate the oceans’ contribution to climate regulation

15.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>