What’s the one thing that protects you most from danger or gets in the way of you taking chances? Fear! For 40-million Americans, their fear factor is out of control! Think of the little things you’re afraid to do, like fly on an airplane or see a doctor. You can take anxiety drugs like Valium, but you’ll still be stuck with the fear. Now, according to ABC News, scientists may have found a way to totally shut off the brain’s fear center, starting with goldfish!
Researchers say the brains of goldfish are a lot like our human brains. So at a university in Japan they taught goldfish to be afraid of a flashing light. When the light came on, the fish got a small electric shock. Before long the fish associated the light with pain and became completely afraid of the light. When scientists injected the anesthetic lidocaine into a part of their brains, the fish weren’t afraid of the light at all! Don’t try this at home.
One researcher doubts this experiment on goldfish could have any bearing on people. Elizabeth Phelps, a psychology professor at New York University, says for one thing, a fish’s fear center is in a different part of the brain than in humans. Once the lidocaine wore off, the fish went right back to being afraid! Phelps has been doing similar studies using rats, and says it’s possible for the brain to forget a fear. She calls the process reconsolidation – at just the right time you create a new memory to replace the fear. This could be great for treating post-traumatic stress disorder.
Right now about 18 percent of people have an anxiety disorder - which starts as a mix of genetics, brain chemistry, personality and terrifying life events. Most patients are treated with a combo of behavioral therapy and drugs – but that opens the door to addiction. As one neuroscientist puts it: The meds calm you down, but why would you want to suppress fear? Though he says chronic anxiety is a huge problem, fear prevents you from doing crazy things! You might get on that plane, but you wouldn’t think of jumping out of it at 30,000 feet!