Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New approach towards an improved treatment of anxiety disorders

12.12.2018

Traumatic experiences can become deeply entrenched in a person's memory. How can fears following a traumatic event be reduced in the long term and prevented from becoming a permanent stress-related disorder? Researchers at the Mainz University Medical Center have recently shed new light on these questions. The key to their approach lies in firmly anchoring new, positive experiences in the person's memory. As in classical treatment, traumatized patients would first have to be exposed to their fear-inducing stimuli to learn that these stimuli are often harmless. This experience would then be made durable using a safe and simple drug treatment.

The researchers have been analyzing more closely the mental processes that underlie the resulting positive memory formation processes. Their findings, now published in Nature Communications, could help improve the treatment of anxiety-related problems and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and aid in the development of appropriate preventive measures.


The human brain is continually changing and can be (re)shaped by experiences – both good and bad. This is the basic premise underlying resilience research and the therapies used to treat phobias and anxiety disorders.

But how do some people manage to reduce their fear, or even make use of it and turn it into new, positive experiences when confronted with a situation that would previously have terrified them? And why does this mechanism called fear extinction fail to work for other people over the long term?

How does an individual's brain form and stabilize long-term memories and what is the role played by factors such as spontaneous neural consolidation processes, which occur after a new, positive experience is learned? These are the questions at the heart of the work carried out by Professor Raffael Kalisch and Dr. Anna M.V. Gerlicher together with researchers of the German Resilience Center (DRZ) and the Collaborative Research Center 1193 "Neurobiology of resilience to stress-induced mental dysfunction: from understanding mechanisms to promoting prevention" at the Mainz University Medical Center.

"We already have a pretty good understanding of the neural processes that are relevant to learning that a fear-inducing stimulus no longer presents a threat. Recent studies have shown, however, that it is very important to be able to clearly remember these learning experiences. This is the only way to avoid repeatedly falling prey to unnecessary fear responses and to thus become resilient to developing a post-traumatic stress disorder,” explained Dr. Anna Gerlicher, first author of the study paper. "Therefore, we focused fully on the question of how, after such an extinction learning process, the learned experience can be consolidated in our memory."

The team led by DRZ research group leader Professor Raffael Kalisch discovered that the brains of their test subjects exhibited specific activation patterns during an extinction learning experience, which spontaneously reappeared in a rest phase after the learning phase.

The more frequently these spontaneous reactivations occurred, the better the subjects were able to recall their positive experience on a subsequent test day and the less marked were their fear responses to stimuli that would otherwise have triggered the fear response.

They also discovered that the activity patterns relevant to the memories were dependent on the neurotransmitter dopamine, known as the reward hormone.

"A particularly fascinating aspect for us was that by administering a commercially available drug that intervenes in cerebral biochemistry and causes an increase in the brain's dopamine levels after extinction learning, we were able to increase the number of reactivations so that subsequent fear responses were reduced to the same extent. In essence, we discovered that fear extinction memories can be relatively easily reinforced, at least in the laboratory, and in fact without any further practice or memory training,” added Kalisch.

The researchers see their findings as offering potential for gaining new insights into the fundamental mechanisms of memory formation and for developing possible new ways to improve the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress.

Press contact:
Barbara Reinke
Corporate Communications
Mainz University Medical Center
Langenbeckstr. 1
55131 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 17-7424
fax +49 6131 17-3496
e-mail: pr@unimedizin-mainz.de
http://www.unimedizin-mainz.de/index.php?id=240&L=1

About the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
The University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz is the only medical facility providing supramaximal care in Rhineland-Palatinate while also functioning as an internationally recognized hub of medical science. It has more than 60 clinics, institutes, and departments that collaborate across the various disciplines. Highly specialized patient care, research, and teaching form an integral whole at the Mainz University Medical Center. Approximately 3,300 students are trained in medicine and dentistry in Mainz. With its approximately 7,500 personnel, the Mainz University Medical Center is also one of the largest employers in the region and an important driver of growth and innovation. Further information is available online at http://www.unimedizin-mainz.de/index.php?id=240&L=1

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Professor Dr. Raffael Kalisch
Head of the Neuroimaging Center at the Mainz University Medical Center
Langenbeckstr. 1
55131 Mainz, GERMANY
phone +49 6131 17-4588
e-mail: rkalisch@uni-mainz.de
http://www.ftn.nic.uni-mainz.de/kalisch-lab

Originalpublikation:

A. M. V. Gerlicher, O. Tüscher, R. Kalisch, Dopamine-dependent prefrontal reactivations explain long-term benefit of fear extinction, Nature Communications 9:4294, 16 October 2018,
DOI:10.1038/s41467-018-06785-y

Oliver Kreft M.A. | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.unimedizin-mainz.de/

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New 3D cultured cells mimic the progress of NASH
02.04.2020 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

nachricht Geneticists are bringing personal medicine closer to recently admixed individuals
02.04.2020 | Estonian Research Council

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 human body as an electrical conductor, a new method of wireless power transfer

Published by Marc Tudela, Laura Becerra-Fajardo, Aracelys García-Moreno, Jesus Minguillon and Antoni Ivorra, in Access, the journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

The project Electronic AXONs: wireless microstimulators based on electronic rectification of epidermically applied currents (eAXON, 2017-2022), funded by a...

Im Focus: Belle II yields the first results: In search of the Z′ boson

The Belle II experiment has been collecting data from physical measurements for about one year. After several years of rebuilding work, both the SuperKEKB electron–positron accelerator and the Belle II detector have been improved compared with their predecessors in order to achieve a 40-fold higher data rate.

Scientists at 12 institutes in Germany are involved in constructing and operating the detector, developing evaluation algorithms, and analyzing the data.

Im Focus: When ions rattle their cage

Electrolytes play a key role in many areas: They are crucial for the storage of energy in our body as well as in batteries. In order to release energy, ions - charged atoms - must move in a liquid such as water. Until now the precise mechanism by which they move through the atoms and molecules of the electrolyte has, however, remained largely unknown. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now shown that the electrical resistance of an electrolyte, which is determined by the motion of ions, can be traced back to microscopic vibrations of these dissolved ions.

In chemistry, common table salt is also known as sodium chloride. If this salt is dissolved in water, sodium and chloride atoms dissolve as positively or...

Im Focus: Harnessing the rain for hydrovoltaics

Drops of water falling on or sliding over surfaces may leave behind traces of electrical charge, causing the drops to charge themselves. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz have now begun a detailed investigation into this phenomenon that accompanies us in every-day life. They developed a method to quantify the charge generation and additionally created a theoretical model to aid understanding. According to the scientists, the observed effect could be a source of generated power and an important building block for understanding frictional electricity.

Water drops sliding over non-conducting surfaces can be found everywhere in our lives: From the dripping of a coffee machine, to a rinse in the shower, to an...

Im Focus: A sensational discovery: Traces of rainforests in West Antarctica

90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous

An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium AWK'21 will take place on June 10 and 11, 2021

07.04.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium in Bremen Postponed by a Year

06.04.2020 | Event News

13th AKL – International Laser Technology Congress: May 4–6, 2022 in Aachen – Laser Technology Live already this year!

02.04.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Doubts about basic assumption for the universe

08.04.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Accelerating AI Together – DFKI Welcomes NVIDIA as Newest Shareholder

08.04.2020 | Information Technology

Ear’s inner secrets revealed with new technology

08.04.2020 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>