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Neuroscientists use neurofeedback to erase fear in the brain

08 December 2016

Imagine a person is terrified of dogs because they once suffered a terrible bite.

Following long-established techniques, their psychologist might gradually expose them to dogs in a safe setting, until their fear gradually faded away.

This “exposure therapy” can be effective but it has some serious drawbacks, including the fact that the person might at first find it traumatic to be close to dogs again.

What if there were a way to remove this person’s fear of dogs at a subconscious level, without the need for any traumatic exposure?

Such an approach has now come much closer to clinical reality thanks to a new study. The findings suggest that neurofeedback can be used to unlearn a fear by pairing relevant non-conscious neural activity with a reward, such as money. Significant technical hurdles remain before this becomes a real-life treatment, but it’s an exciting breakthrough.

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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