Science

Scientists Successfully Removed Phobias From Brain

By Christie Abagon , Nov 28, 2016 03:06 AM EST

You can now say goodbye to your fears.  Neuroscientists found a way to remove specific fears from your brain through brain scanning technology and artificial intelligence.  The process called Decoded Neuro-feedback has a potential to treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"We always thought this was ambitious, but it worked the way we hoped it would.  We don't completely erase the fear memory, but it is substantially reduced," said Ben Seymour, a clinical neuroscientist and member of the team at Cambridge University said. 

The Study Used Reward System For Every Instance Of Fear

 In a study published in Nature Human Behavior, scientists said they relied on the identification of brain patterns which reflects the specific fears.  The patterns are then overwritten to make sure the fears are eradicated using a reward system.  "When we induced a mild fear memory in the brain, we were able to develop a fast and accurate method of reading it by using AI algorithms.  The challenge then was to find a way to reduce or remove the fear memory, without ever consciously evoking it," Seymour said.

During the research, the scientists built up a "fear memory" in volunteers.  The subjects each went through some shocks whenever they saw some colors. In every new fear that overcame them, it would create brain patterns and would recur subconsciously without any effort on the part of the volunteers.  At every instance of fear, the researchers gave the subjects a reward.  This continued until the fearful memory is overwritten. 

Researchers Hope To Help Patients Get Over Their Worst Fears

Currently, treatment available for phobias and PTSD are aversion therapy and drugs with unpleasant side effects.  Scientists hope that this new treatment would bring down phobias and PTSD if the brain patterns linked with fears, such as spiders, are located. 

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