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A new paper co-authored by Marijn Kroes shows how beta-blockers can prevent the return of fear

12.05.2016 17:55

Combining beta-blockers with the right type of behavioral therapy could optimize treatments for people with fear- and anxiety-related disorders. This is the result of a study led by Branco Weiss fellow Marijn Kroes, recently published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

The method has already been used to reduce fear, yet experimental studies combining the drug with memory reactivation have had contradictory results. In the new study, the researchers have set up a double-blind placebo-controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging study in humans. Basically, they gave the test persons a single dose of the beta-blocker propranolol before training them to control their fear responses, the so-called extinction learning.

Analyses of brain activity reveal that people are less likely to retrieve the memory of the fearful events, and are better at learning that the new situation is safe. It also prevents the return of fear responses at a later time in the absence of the drug. Analyses of behaviour do further show why people no longer show fear responses, and the brain activity analyses show which brain regions are involved in this.

Read the paper here.