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 Infants later diagnosed with autism follow adults’ gaze, but seldom initiate joint attention
24.05.2019 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

nachricht When wheels and heads are spinning - DFG research project on motion sickness in automated driving
22.05.2019 | Technische Universität Berlin

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: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>