Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Masked fears: Are fears that are seemingly overcome only hidden?

Date:
March 20, 2011
Source:
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Summary:
Fear is a natural part of our emotional life and acts as a necessary protection mechanism. However, fears sometimes grow beyond proportions and become difficult to shed. Scientists have now used computer simulations to understand the processes within the brain during the formation and extinction of fears.

One group of nerve cells in the brain controls the fear behaviour (right). This can be suppressed by a second group of nerve cells (left) -- but the fear is only masked, and has not disappeared completely.
Credit: Carlos Toledo/Bernstein Center Freiburg

Fear is a natural part of our emotional life and acts as a necessary protection mechanism. However, fears sometimes grow beyond proportions and become difficult to shed. Scientists from Freiburg, Basel and Bordeaux have used computer simulations to understand the processes within the brain during the formation and extinction of fears.

Related Articles


In the current issue of the scientific journal PLoS Computational Biology, Ioannis Vlachos from the Bernstein Center Freiburg and colleagues propose for the first time an explanation for how fears that were seemingly overcome are in reality only hidden.

The reason for the persistency of fears is that, literally, their roots run deep: Far below the cerebral cortex lies the "amygdala," which plays a crucial role in fear processes. Fear is commonly investigated in mice by exposing them simultaneously to a neutral stimulus -- a certain sound, for example -- and an unpleasant one. This leads to the animals being frightened of the sound as well. Context plays an important role in this case: If the scaring sound is played repeatedly in a new context without anything bad happening, the mice shed their fear again. It returns immediately, however, if the sound is presented in the original, or even a completely novel context. Had the mice not unlearned to be frightened after all?

The fact that fears can be "masked" has been known for some time. Recently, two co-authors of the present study discovered that two groups of nerve cells within the amygdala are involved in this process. By creating a model of the amygdala's neuronal network, Ioannis Vlachos and colleagues were now able to find an explanation for how such a masking of fears is implemented in the brain: One group of cells is responsible for the fear response, the second for its suppression. Activity of the latter inhibits the former and, thus, prevents fear signals to be transmitted to other parts of the brain. Nevertheless, the change in their connections that resulted in an increased activity in the fear-coding neurons in the first place, is still present. As soon as the masking by the fear-suppressing neurons disappears, for example by changing the context, these connections come into action again -- the fear returns.

According to the scientists, these insights can be transferred to us humans, helping to treat fears more successfully in the future.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ioannis Vlachos, Cyril Herry, Andreas Lüthi, Ad Aertsen, Arvind Kumar. Context-Dependent Encoding of Fear and Extinction Memories in a Large-Scale Network Model of the Basal Amygdala. PLoS Computational Biology, 2011; 7 (3): e1001104 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1001104

Cite This Page:

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Masked fears: Are fears that are seemingly overcome only hidden?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110318112018.htm>.
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. (2011, March 20). Masked fears: Are fears that are seemingly overcome only hidden?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110318112018.htm
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Masked fears: Are fears that are seemingly overcome only hidden?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110318112018.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
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