Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Researchers Erase Fear "Memories" in People Through Behavior Alone

In [a] new study, researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden first gave people something to fear -- an image that, every time it flashed on a computer screen, was paired with a shock. They then brought the subjects back the next day and reminded them of their fear memory -- the beginning of the reconsolidation process -- by showing just the image that they had associated with the shock the day before. This reactivated the memory, inducing fear, but theoretically also making the memory easier to erase. Next, they split the subjects into two groups. One got an "extinction treatment" 10 minutes after reconsolidation, in which the researchers showed the subjects the images over and over again without shocks, so that the subjects would stop associating one with the other. The other group got the same treatment, but after a six-hour delay. In both groups, the researchers then measured how "present" the fear memory was, using a standardized measure of skin conductance-basically how sweaty their skin gets during a presentation of the feared image. The first group showed no fear, while the second group showed quite a bit, confirming that the timing mattered... more

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