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IBS to Remove Traumatic Memories with Visual Stimuli (February 14)

- Scientists unmask the neural circuit that underlies an effective psychotherapy for reducing traumatic memories

- Paper published on Nature to contribute to PTSD treatment

Director Shin Hee-Sup of Center for Cognition and Sociality of Institute for Basic Science (IBS) used animal experiments to prove the effectiveness of psychotherapy for treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) so called “trauma” for the world’s first time and identified the new brain pathway.

o The Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT) and IBS announced that the tangible outcomes from this research have been published on the online version of Nature (IF 41.577), which is world’s most-renowned paper, at 3am of February 14 (Korean local time).

The research team found out that fear reaction decreased rapidly for mice having trauma from painful memories by giving visual stimulus of moving light swinging side to side (alternating bilateral sensory stimulation).

* eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): one of psychotherapeutic methods for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the EMDR, patients are instructed to recall a traumatic memory while receiving alternating bilateral sensory stimulation (ABS).

o It has been proven that fear reaction did not recur when faced with similar situations for a prolonged time in different places and a new neural circuit has been discovered which is involved in conjuring up traumatic memories and reactions among brain domains.

o It has been confirmed that through behavioral / observational experiments and neurophysiology therapies, fear response reducing effects can be adjusted using neural circuits. The neural circuits start from superior colliculus which receives visual stimuli (manages eye movement and attracting attention), go through mediodorsal thalamic nuclei (constrains fearful memories) and reach to amygdala (fear response).

* When neural circuit which starts from superior colliculus to mediodorsal thalamic nuclei and then to amygdala is strengthened by using optogenetics, effects of reducing fear reaction became strong but when it was curbed instead, effects of reducing fear reaction disappeared.

The research is meaningful in that the effects of psychotherapy which have only been proven through experiences could be identified with scientific principles in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by using animal experiments.

o It is first time for the effects of psychotherapy used in psychiatric division to be proven with animal experiments. It has been reported that post-traumatic stress disorder is cured efficiently, if alternating bilateral sensory stimulation is repeated, either in the form of light or sound, when recalling a traumatic memory. However, this has been often ignored when principles have not been identified.

Director Shin Hee-Sup of Center for Cognition and Sociality of IBS said, “post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may develop after a single traumatic experience, but it takes a long time to cure diseases with drugs and provide psychiatric treatment. We will focus on research which develops drugs and technologies that control the circuit which curbs recalling of traumatic memories and this will contribute to treating PTSD easily.”

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