April 8, 2024 at 9:22 am

Scientists Say There Could Be A Way To “Turn Off” A PTSD Fear Response

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

Even though we only started hearing about PTSD as an official psychiatric diagnosis, it’s clear looking back that it has been an issue forever.

People suffer trauma, and afterward, they struggle to respond to things that cause fear without an extreme (sometimes violent) reaction.

Now, scientists are saying they might have found the neurological “switch” that could turn it off.

Right now, people who suffer with PTSD are treated with talk therapy, deep brain therapy, and medication, but shaking the anxiety can be a lifelong process.

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This team of neurobiologists from the University of California San Diego have researched what causes this response in the brain, and believe there’s a “switch” that causes “fear generalization.”

Not only that, but they claim to have found a way to stop it for good.

They discovered this “switch” studying lab mice that had been conditioned to experience a general feeling of fear.

Their brain scans showed that a neurotransmitter that allows neurons to communicate switches to a different type that results in “generalized fear” to continue even after the person is removed from the traumatic situation.

It exists in the dorsal raphe, which is located in a mouse’s brainstem. They found similar changes in human patients who had suffered from PTSD – these were postmortem exams.

In mice, the team was able to stop the fear response in mice by injecting them with a harmless virus. This stopped the switch and lessened the generalized fear response the mice were exhibiting.

Source: Shutterstock

Additionally, they note that prescribing the mice Prozac immediately after the stressful situation also stopped the neurotransmitter from switching.

“Our results provide important insights into the mechanisms involved in fear generalization. The benefit of understanding these processes at this level of molecular detail – what is going on and where it’s going on – allows an intervention that is specific to the mechanisms that drives related disorders.”

This sounds positive when it comes to helping people cope with the experiences that have changed them, and not for the better.

I’m a little dubious about any easy fixes when it comes to psychological trauma, but it seems that only time will tell.

If you found that story interesting, learn more about why people often wake up around 3 AM and keep doing it for life.