Can Fear Be Erased?

(Image from Psycho by Universal Pictures)

According to some medical researchers, there's good reason to think so. Hypothetically, gene therapy could reduce or limit fear and subsequent trauma from terrifying situations. Geneticists have found that a particular mutation in the BDNF gene results in timidity. Certain drugs can reduce a fearful response to trauma. In the future, if such drugs are given immediately after a traumatic event, they may prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. Bret Stetka writes in Scientific American:

Raül Andero Galí, a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University, thinks BDNF-based approaches hold promise in understanding and treating anxiety. Only small amounts of BDNF make it across the blood-brain barrier, so at the moment there is no therapeutic role for the compound itself. Yet Galí’s work has shown that a compound that mimics the effects of BDNF in the brain successfully helped mice get over fearful associations—specifically a sound paired with a foot shock. The prospect of BDNF gene therapy is also being investigated. […]

Galí has also shown that a drug that blocks the activity of the Tac2 gene pathway, which is also thought to play a role in fear extinction, reduces the consolidation and storage of traumatic memories in mice, suggesting a possible therapeutic role in post-traumatic stress disorder. “PTSD it is a unique psychiatric disease because we usually know when it begins,” Galí says. “We could potentially give drugs shortly after trauma to prevent it.”

-via Ace of Spades HQ

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