Fear, is there a Cure?
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Fear, is there a Cure? • Posted: Aug 17, 2019 16:02:44Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

More and more it seems, fear is invading our lives. It’s not a nice feeling. We feel trapped and without options. We fret and worry and imagine all kinds of ways to strike back, few of which, we know, will actually solve the problem. We are stuck and beginning to panic. Our pulse is racing. Our breathing is rapid and shallow. We are sweating and shivering at the same time. Our eyes are darting back and forth, fearing, hoping, fearing, hoping. We need to act. We need to act.

And finally, some of us break into rage, begin to strike out. Break things. Yell and curse. Kick the dog. Punch someone. Run our car into something or someone. Maybe grab a knife and cut our own wrists, or buy a gun and begin to shoot, shoot everyone, shoot at all that is holding us back, making us fear, making us angry.

Any rational person who reads or listens to the news these days can easily find reason to fear, to feel trapped, without options. Advertisers, propagandists, and hucksters know very well what we face. And, they proclaim they have the cure. Buy this. Stay tuned, keep listening to me. Vote for me. Take these pills. I have the answer. I will lead you to the cure. But, is there? Is there really a cure for fear?

An interesting study was published recently, a study wholly irrelevant if you believe science is a hoax or conspiracy. I don’t. From my point of view, rational science and rational cooperative action have built nearly everything we enjoy and rely upon within today’s world to provide us with safe haven and empowering personal options, from medical cures to safe food and drinking water, from bridges to safe buildings with reliable heating and cooling, to the advanced electronics that now feed us both rational and irrational reasons to fear.

That study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and University of Wisconsin, Madison, as reported by Mindzilla, found that “a single molecule in the brain can change ‘dispositional anxiety,’ the tendency to perceive many situations as threatening, in nonhuman primates”. That molecule is neurotrophin-3. Its presence stimulates brain neurons to grow and increase interconnections. Researchers first found neurotrophin-3 operating within the “dorsal amygdala, a brain region important in emotional responses,” and in later studies “throughout the distributed brain regions that contribute to anxiety”.

And yes, those studies were controlled. “The researchers used an altered virus to boost levels of neurotrophin-3 in the dorsal amygdala of juvenile rhesus macaques.” Compared to juvenile rhesus macaques who had not received the treatment, “they found that the increase of neurotrophin-3 in the dorsal amygdala lead to a decrease in anxiety-related behaviours, particularly behaviors associated with inhibition, a core feature of the early-life risk for developing anxiety disorders in humans”.

Andrew Fox, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Psychology and a researcher at the California National Primate Research Center, and co-leader of the study, has said “Neurotrophin-3 is the first molecule that we’ve been able to show in a non-human primate to be causally related to anxiety. It’s one of potentially many molecules that could have this affect. There could be hundreds or even thousands more.” But, the clear conclusion for humans is that increased neuronal growth and interconnection within anxiety related areas of the brain lessens anxiety and, potentially, fear. Conversely, atrophied growth and interconnection within the brain stymies our ability to both imagine and perceive options for ourselves when confronted with new and potentially hazardous situations.

It has also been made abundantly clear from earlier studies of the brain that rehearsal over and over again of singular thoughts and actions promotes pruning of some neuronal interconnections and strengthening of others, limiting our ability to stray from those particular thoughts and actions, either in error or by intent. By habit, we become both more proficient and more rigid in our thinking.

Putting those two conclusions together, it seems clear that if there is a cure for fear, it lies within both establishing clear safe habits of thought and action, and within opening our minds to new and unusual ways of looking at things, meeting new people, and learning new things. In other words, either we make good use of our brains and all its potential, or we risk losing ourselves within the dim fog of anxiety and fear.

Something else to be fearful of?

Perhaps. But apparently we have been endowed with good tools for this world. We just have to make good use of them.

May the wisdom to do so always be with you.

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
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