From Medical Xpress:

Credit: George Hodan/public domain

As those who suffer from anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder can attest, recovering from pervasive fear memories can be difficult or impossible to do. Yale researchers, however, have shown how disabling a single molecule can help animals eliminate engrained fear responses.

“The hope is that medical intervention can help behavioral therapy for PTSD and become much more effective,” said Stephen Strittmatter, the Vincent Coates Professor of Neurology and professor of neuroscience, and senior author of the paper published Dec. 1 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Strittmatter’s lab has studied the impact of Nogo Receptor 1 on nerve and brain cells. In the brain, Nogo Receptor helps stabilize the process of the pruning of neural connections that occurs during adolescence. This “cementing process” in brain development is one reason why adults tend to have harder time recovering from neurological damage than do children.

Sarah M. Bhagat, a neuroscience Ph.D. student in Strittmatter’s lab, wanted to see if blocking Nogo Receptor could extinguish induced fear behaviors in adult mice. The team used classic fear conditioning—the coupling of a tone with a mild foot shock—to induce fear memories in animals. These types of fear memories, like those associated with PTSD, are notoriously difficult to erase in adulthood. Even after shocks are discontinued for months, the sound of a tone triggers extreme anxiety-like behavior in conditioned mice. Fear extinction training, or the repetitive introduction of the tone without the shocks, can lessen the response for…

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