Fear is something we don’t want to experience but it’s important in our life. Fear helps us to make any decision or take any step carefully. Having fear makes us commit less mistakes. But there are many people who suffer a lot from anxiety and fear. For example, these people fear and get nervous in situations where there is nothing to be afraid of. About 18 percent of Americans have this disease called PTSD, out of which which 8 percent of Americans will experience at some point. Scientists are now working out to find a way by which they can make people forget fearful memories. Right now the progress has been done on rats only.
According to a new research published in Natural Neuroscience, scientists said that they have found a path which can be blocked to make the rats forget fearful memories. For an easy understanding, Let’s visualize the brain as a numerous roadways. The researchers trained the rats to fear a high pitch sound. The rodents were traumatized every time they heard the sound. Using a specialized microscopy technique, the scientists observed that there was growth in the neurons along a particular pathway in the brain.
Most people used to think that fear was a one way path which initiated at the site where sound was being interpreted and ended at the zone was emotions are being processed. This zone is called lateral amygdala. The new study suggests that fear needs to travel back to the auditory cortex from the amygdala all the way back to the auditory cortex. The scientists could prevent the mice from feeling fearful by cutting off the second path. “If we can reduce the fear response in mice, hopefully this will help us find some way to reduce this in humans too,” says Yang Yang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who led today’s study.
After training the mice to feel fear, the scientists then studies the neurons, axons and their inter-connection in details. They found that animals that were afraid of the sound had greater connections with the new path. They cut off that connection using two methods, the first one being a technique called optogenetics, and the second one being a virus containing a receptor called hM4D. The brain of human beings are highly complicated and way more complex than that of mice. So there is a long long way to go for scientists before implementing the same in human brain.