Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brains Rely On Old And New Mechanisms To Diminish Fear

Date:
September 12, 2008
Source:
New York University
Summary:
Humans have developed complex thought processes that can help to regulate their emotions, but these processes are also linked with evolutionarily older mechanisms that are common across species, according to a study by neuroscientists at New York and Rutgers universities.

Humans have developed complex thought processes that can help to regulate their emotions, but these processes are also linked with evolutionarily older mechanisms that are common across species, according to a study by neuroscientists at New York and Rutgers universities. The research appears in the Sept. 11 issue of the journal Neuron.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the laboratory of NYU Professor Elizabeth Phelps, who co-authored the work with Mauricio R. Delgado, now a professor at Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. The study's other authors were Katherine Nearing, now at the University of Miami's School of Medicine, and Joseph E. LeDoux, a professor in NYU's Center for Neuroscience.

Recent scholarship has sought to translate basic research to the treatment of clinical disorders by exploring techniques and mechanisms for diminishing fear. This research has emphasized two approaches: the extinction of fear, which has been examined in a range of species and involves the repeated exposure to the feared event without negative consequences, or cognitive emotion regulation, which is unique to humans. This study examined the similarities and differences in the neural mechanisms underlying both of these approaches in diminishing fear.

Previous work in rodents and humans has linked the interaction of the brain's amygdala and ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) to the extinction of fear. The researchers in the Neuron study asked if a similar neural circuitry, in addition to brain regions known to play a role in higher cognitive functions, specifically the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), are linked to the use of cognitive strategies of changing one's thoughts to control emotion.

In conducting the study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the patterns of brain activation during extinction and emotion regulation. Prior to each trial, participants were given a written cue that instructed them to either respond to the stimulus ("focus on your natural feelings") or regulate their emotional response to the stimulus ("think of something blue in nature that calms you down, such as the ocean"). Subjects were asked to keep the same mental picture they selected during training throughout the experiment. The study's subjects were then presented with two stimuli, a blue and a yellow square that either predicted or did not predict a mild electric shock. Arousal responses to the blue and yellow squares served as the measure of fear, and its reduction through the use of the cognitive regulation strategy.

The researchers observed that regions of the dlPFC were engaged by the use of cognitive emotion regulation strategies, which also led to diminished responses in the amygdala, a region known to play a role in the expression of learned fears. In addition, the same vmPFC regions that are thought to inhibit the amygdala during extinction were activated. In sum, the findings suggest that there is overlap in the neural circuitry of diminishing learned fears through emotion regulation and extinction. Moreover, the results suggested that vmPFC may play a general regulatory role in diminishing fear across a range of paradigms.

"Our results suggest that even though humans may have developed unique capabilities for using complex cognitive strategies to control emotion, these strategies may influence the amygdala through evolutionarily shared mechanisms of extinction," explained Phelps.

"Extinction and cognitive emotion regulation may be, in part, complementary in that they rely on a common neural circuitry and, perhaps, similar neurophysiological and neurochemical mechanisms." Delgado added, "This finding is important because it suggests our detailed knowledge of the neural mechanisms of eliminating fears through extinction may also apply to the use of uniquely human, cognitive strategies to control emotion."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by New York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

New York University. "Brains Rely On Old And New Mechanisms To Diminish Fear." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910133653.htm>.
New York University. (2008, September 12). Brains Rely On Old And New Mechanisms To Diminish Fear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910133653.htm
New York University. "Brains Rely On Old And New Mechanisms To Diminish Fear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080910133653.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Portable Breathalyzer Gets You Home Safely

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) Breeze, a portable breathalyzer, gets you home safely by instantly showing your blood alcohol content, and with one tap, lets you call an Uber, a cab or a friend from your contact list to pick you up. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins