‘Arachnophobia’ Cure: Reprogramming Memory Said to Treat Fear of Spiders

Admin | Published 2016-08-29 05:10
Who aren’t scared of spiders? Seriously, those brave, lucky individuals who can stand the sight of those eight-legged creepy crawlers are definitely one of a kind. I remembered having to scream every time Mr. Spidey would show up at the bathroom and I would just have to pee really fast, afraid that it might dive right into my face. My fear? I really don’t remember when I started having it or why I had it, I probably just have an intense dislike and fear of all insects, of any kind. Today, therapies have been known to reduce arachnophobia or the fear of spiders. One common cure for fears and anxiety is exposure therapy where patients have to go through “exposure” to situations or images that caused their fears to slowly overcome them. However, even if the exposure was successful, the learning that is involved may not be permanent so there could be chances that these fears may return. Thankfully, in a new study conducted by Sweden’s Uppsala University researchers published in Current Biology, it shows how exposure therapy’s effect can be better by “disrupting the recreation of fear-memories in people with arachnophobia”. In the study, participants with arachnophobia were exposed to pictures of spiders while measuring brain activity in the amygdala, which is linked to fear. They uncovered that exposures of just 10 minutes before a major exposure can result to a significantly reduced activity in the amygdala when participants were to look at spider images again the next day. The reduced fear which does not return easily is explained because the “memory is made unstable before exposure and re-saved in its weakened form.” Johannes Björkstrand, a Psychology student at Uppsala University said, “It is striking that such a simple manipulation so clearly affects brain activity and behaviour. A simple modification of existing treatments could possibly improve effects. This would mean more people getting rid of their anxieties after treatment and fewer relapses.”
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