09 Dec
Removing Fears by Rewarding Them Removing Fears by Rewarding Them

Removing Fears by Rewarding Them

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A team of neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered a method for eliminating certain fears from the brain by using a mixture of brain scanning technology and artificial intelligence.

One of the authors of the study explains a technique known as Decoded Neurofeedback, which identifies specific fears and then "overwrites" them by giving test subjects a modest reward:

"When we induced a mild fear memory in the brain, we were able to develop a fast and accurate method of reading it by using AI algorithms. The challenge then was to find a way to reduce or remove the fear memory, without ever consciously evoking it. 

"We realised that even when the volunteers were simply resting, we could see brief moments when the pattern of fluctuating brain activity had partial features of the specific fear memory, even though the volunteers weren't consciously aware of it. Because we could decode these brain patterns quickly, we decided to give subjects a reward -- a small amount of money -- every time we picked up these features of the memory."

By continuing to connect patterns of brain activity with rewards, scientists believe they may be able to eventually -- and unconsciously -- remove those memories.

The subjects were again shown the pictures that were associated with electric shocks given to them over the course of the testing.

"Remarkably, we could no longer see the typical fear skin-sweating response," says another group leader. "Nor could we identify enhanced activity in the amygdala -- the brain's fear centre. This meant that we'd been able to reduce the fear memory without the volunteers ever consciously experiencing the fear memory in the process."

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Read 1610 times Last modified on Saturday, 26 November 2016 13:18
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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