Saturday, 28 Feb, 2009 Health & Fitness

Medicine Against Fears And Phobias Discovered


The medicine, traditionally used for treating patients with a weak heart, had showed a surprising result: it helped people forget about their phobias and get over posttraumatic stress, reports.

Scientists have been trying for a long time to find a medicine that would help persons with nervous disturbances overcome their old fears.

Today, in the contemporary clinics doctors use the following method: all the things that may cause negative emotions to the patient are suggested to him in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. After some time, the person forgets about havin connection with these emotions and the associations which might remind him about the unpleasant events of his life. Still, such a method doesn't always help. And after several years the fear might return to the patient as a consequence of a certain event.

Some doctors began to look for a physiological method of solving this problem. At first, biologists have discovered that a substance called "propranolol" helps animals "forget" about unpleasant associations. Later, new publications have appeared, supposing that it has the same influence on the human being.

A group of specialists, led by Merel Kindt from the University of Amsterdam, had decided to check its effects. The experiment included 60 healthy students as participants, all of them were made to sit in front of a monitor with images of spiders on it. Every time the spiders were appearing on the screen, the participants were exposed to an electric shock (not very painful, but still unpleasant). Thus, they were made to be afraid of the images even in the absence of the electricity's influence (the reaction was measured by seeing the movement of the muscles responsible of blinking).

After that, half of the group was administered propranolol and the other half was administered placebo. The second and the third day the experiment was repeated. It turned out that the first group had showed less fear when looking at the images. This may partially say that fear, in conditions of a further treatment, might disappear for good.

"We cannot record the fact that phobia had disappeared with the contemporary methods, but it had certainly decreased", Kindt reported.

Propranolol blocks certain adrenoreceptors. When one is in a situation which threatens his life and/or health, a big dose of adrenalin is being secreted into the blood. If certain factors remind the person about past unpleasant things, the secretion of adrenalin is repeated and sometimes the reaction might be increased.

In their article published in the journal "Nature Neuroscience", scientists affirm that propranolol decreases the sensibility of the amygdaloidal body (a brain formation) to adrenalin (and, respectively, inhibits the feeling of fear). This means that with the time it can destroy the link between memories and the reactions of the organism under their influence.

However, this research has its weak sides. For example, the experiments were made only for 3 days. Some specialists consider that before beginning a work on the creation of a new medicine for truly complicated patients it is necessary to make longer experiments (at least, some weeks for the repeating the experiment).

Besides, as some scientific groups remark, posttraumatic stress might be represented as aggression or feeling of shame, reactions not taken into consideration by the group led by Kindt. The influence of propranolol on them should also be determined.

Merel is getting ready for beginning such experiments and for a simultaneous scanning of the patients' brains.

Posted by summer_rain

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