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Study might give the anxious less to fear

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Posted: Monday, February 18, 2013 12:21 am | Updated: 12:23 am, Mon Feb 18, 2013.

A new study by UF researchers has found a different region of the brain to help control anxiety or fear. This means people could have more control over their anxiety disorders or phobias.

Other therapies exist to help with anxiety disorders and phobias, but this discovery could lead to a new type of treatment. Future research would test what happens when people can control the way they look at something fearful.

The treatment would train the visual response.

“The surprising result is that the visual part of the brain would be a good target for treatment,” said Andreas Keil, co-author of the experiment.

The findings were published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience by Keil and Vladimir Miskovic, both members of the UF Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention.

Keil said both he and Miskovic have worked on the study for 15 years, and they just got the sense to isolate the visual cortex and test it. For the experiment, 21 undergraduate participants looked at “silent” and “loud” shapes on a screen. The loud shapes were followed by an unpleasant, high static noise, Keil said.The silent shape was a safety cue and the loud shape was a threat cue.

The brainwave reactions in their visual cortices showed the participants learned to fear the loud shapes. When both of the shapes appeared on the screen, the participants ignored the safety cue and focused only on the threat.

Lizzy Slonena, president of the UF Neuroscience Club, said the study is innovative.

“We always have this outline that we think psychology goes by and when new information comes out, it’s groundbreaking” said the 22-year-old psychology senior.

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