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Bye Bad Memories! New Artificial Intelligence Technique Can Erase Your Fears From Brain

Nov 24, 2016 03:36 AM EST

Researchers have discovered a way to recondition the brain to overcome fear, using a combination of artificial intelligence and brain scanning technology.

The discovery was detailed in a paper published in Nature Human Behaviour.

An estimated 8.7% of Americans, or 19.2 million people, suffer from a specific phobia. Psych Central defines phobias as persistent, irrational fears of certain objects or situations. 

As of now, there is no proven drug medication for specific phobias but other techniques such as therapy may help to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

A team of neuroscientists from the University of Cambridge, Japan and the USA, has found a way of unconsciously remove fear memory from the brain. The scientists claim that this could also help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to Science Daily, the team used a technique called 'Decoded Neurofeedback'. The researchers created a "fear memory" in the brains of the volunteers. Using brain scanning technique, the researchers identified the pattern in the brain that elicits the fear erased it and over-wrote the fear memory with reward.

"The way information is represented in the brain is very complicated, but the use of artificial intelligence (AI) image recognition methods now allow us to identify aspects of the content of that information. When we induced a mild fear memory in the brain, we were able to develop a fast and accurate method of reading it by using AI algorithms. The challenge then was to find a way to reduce or remove the fear memory, without ever consciously evoking it," Dr. Ben Seymour one of the authors on the study said in a press release.

"We realised that even when the volunteers were simply resting, we could see brief moments when the pattern of fluctuating brain activity had partial features of the specific fear memory, even though the volunteers weren't consciously aware of it. Because we could decode these brain patterns quickly, we decided to give subjects a reward -- a small amount of money -- every time we picked up these features of the memory."

The researchers hope that the outcome would pave way for tailored treatment against phobias and PTSD. Medical News Today said that the method presented by the researchers would save the patients from undergoing the stress associated with drugs and exposure therapy which are commonly used today.

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