Fear Factor

Fear conditioning in mice lessened by drug

January 14, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) A chemical substance injected into mice has decreased their "fear conditioning" response and may be a viable option to help people overcome post-traumatic stress.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects around 5.2 million people a year and about 7 to 8 percent of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Patients suffering from the disorder have been through a trauma, such as being in war or surviving a natural disaster, and experience long-lasting residual fear and anxiety.

A recent study showed that when injected with a chemical compound, mice subjected to a traumatic experience overcame "fear conditioning" faster. Fear conditioning is the ability of an animal to predict bad events by learning from past experiences.

Scientists injected them with a flavenoid called 7,8-Dihydroxyflavone. A flavenoid is a chemical compound that can be found in several things like red wine, cereal, tea and cocoa. Frequent dietary exposure to these foods in lab animals has shown definite benefits for the brain.

7,8-Dihydroxyflavone is the first chemical shown to actually cross the blood-brain barrier and imitate the processes of a normal brain protein called BDNF, which is essential for learning and memory.

The results of this study suggest that the flavenoid could be manipulated and used as a therapeutic drug option to treat people with fear and anxiety disorders. Further research would involve combining the chemical's effects in addition to psychotherapy and right after a person experiences a trauma.