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Brain proteins make fears last

Why are fearful memories so hard to shake? The answer may lie in developmental changes in the extracellular environment in the amygdala -- the emotional center of the brain -- where such memories are formed, according to a study published this week in Science. Image: Wikimedia commons"This is an extremely important observation because it suggests a mechanism for why fear memories are so indelible," neuroscientist linkurl:Gregory Quirk;http://www.md.rcm.upr.edu/quirk/Home.html of the University

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Why are fearful memories so hard to shake? The answer may lie in developmental changes in the extracellular environment in the amygdala -- the emotional center of the brain -- where such memories are formed, according to a study published this week in Science.
Image: Wikimedia commons
"This is an extremely important observation because it suggests a mechanism for why fear memories are so indelible," neuroscientist linkurl:Gregory Quirk;http://www.md.rcm.upr.edu/quirk/Home.html of the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, who was not involved in the work, wrote in an email to The Scientist. Memories of traumatic events can evoke excessive fear in inappropriate situations, in some cases leading to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One treatment for PTSD involves re-exposing individuals to elements of the bad event without the associated emotional trauma, in order to decrease the fear stirred up by the memory. In adults, this process, known as extinction, involves...




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