Hello there, we are back with another Psych Sunday post and people really enjoyed the last one (as much as I did writing it). Therefore, in today’s topic we are going to be talking about whether we can “recondition the brain to overcome fear” (of course check out the article on Science Daily which first spoke about this topic).
Firstly, the article states that “fear related disorders affect around one in 14 people”. This is quite a lot, and I know that we all have felt fear at some point in our lives but just not to the extreme as those with the disorders might feel. For example, I am absolutely terrified of spiders, and I literally cannot be in the same room until someone has got rid of it. But I wouldn’t say I have a disorder.
Nevertheless, one approach that is common to treat those with fear related disorders is to undergo aversion therapy. Most of us have probably heard of this therapy and also probably have seen many programmes on TV about it. Basically it is designed to cause the patient to be exposed to the thing that they fear, which over time should condition them to see that it shouldn’t be something to be scared of. Now I know what you are thinking that this sounds absolutely horrible, and this is why a lot of people don’t do it.
That is where this current research comes into it, because a team of NeuroScientists have suggested that there is a way of unconsciously removing a “fear memory” from our brain. Now this sounds a lot better, I mean if I could remove my fear of spiders without actually having to deal with spiders in the process I think I would.
As the article states the team used a method called “Decoded Neurofeedback”, which used brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain. Thus, identifying the patterns of activity that resembled specific fears in the memory.
The article states that in the experiment a fear memory was created by administering a brief electric shock when they saw a certain image, and then once this was detected the researchers would then overwrite this fear by giving them a reward. This was repeated over three days, and as the article argues by connecting the brain activity to the electric shock and this with a small reward, the researchers wanted to override the fear memory. Therefore, as the researchers argued that the initial memory of receiving that “shock” was being re-programmed to “predict something positive instead”.
The participants were then shown (and it was monitored again) the images that were previously associated with the shocks. Interestingly there was no “fear response”. Thus, they concluded that they were able to reduce the fear memory without the participants ever consciously experiencing the fear memory (like the aversion therapy).
This research is great in order for better treatments for those that have fear related disorders, and hopefully this will encourage it to go on trial and be tested for real. Additionally, as the article suggests this could be better than drug-related approaches or the aversion therapy as people would not have to go through what they fear in order to over-come it. But we would need further research to confirm that.
What do you think about this potential “new treatment”?
Thanks for reading! I really enjoy these posts because I love psychology, and I am always on the look-out for new articles I can talk about. If you enjoyed give a like, comment and follow for more posts! 💚Also thank you all for the continuous support, it makes me so happy and I just want to send you all my love, you are all the best!🥰💚