Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientist find more efficient way to "unlearn" fear

06.10.2003


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.

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

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht The competitive edge: Dietary competition played a key role in the evolution of early primates
01.08.2018 | Grand Valley State University

nachricht Diversity and education influence India’s population growth
31.07.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.

This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.

Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.

"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.

Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Glacial engineering could limit sea-level rise, if we get our emissions under control

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Warning against hubris in CO2 removal

20.09.2018 | Earth Sciences

Halfway mark for NOEMA, the super-telescope under construction

20.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>