New Technology Could Treat Phobias
Anxiety disorders based on fear, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias, are common, affecting millions of people in the U.S. Although several treatment options for these conditions are available—including psychotherapy, medication, and alternative therapies—the success of these treatments varies. Now, a team of neuroscientists have discovered a way to "remove" fears from the brain.
Researchers from Great Britain, Japan, and the U.S. found a way to remove specific fear memories unconsciously using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and brain scanning technology. In a new technique—called decoded neurofeedback—the scientists use brain scans to identify complex activity in the brain that indicates a fear memory. Each time the fear memory was detected, the researchers gave the participants a monetary reward—overriding and replacing the fear memory over the course of a three-day period.
This study was small and the sample size was limited, but the results are promising. If further research confirms the results, decoded neurofeedback could replace medications and stressful treatments like exposure therapy to treat phobias and PTSD.
Image Credit: Thinkstock