It is interesting to see that we can fight fears during sleep. Normally, phobia's are addressed by gradually showing that person the phobia they have little by little. It would be even better to fight fears during sleep because we are not fully aware of what is happening. I believe this can be potentially a great way to address fears and phobia especially starting from a young age.
For many patients with phobias, typical treatment involves gradual exposure to the feared object or situation. But researchers have now found that emotional memory can be manipulated during sleep, paving the way to new phobia treatments as we dream.
The researchers, from Northwestern University, published the results of their study in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
They note that previous projects have demonstrated spatial learning and motor sequence learning can be strengthened during sleep, but until now, emotional memory has never been manipulated during slumber.
In the study, the researchers gave 15 healthy volunteers mild electric shocks while two different faces were presented to them. The volunteers also smelled different odorants - such as clove, new sneaker or mint - while looking at each face and being shocked.
This linked the face and the smells with fear for the volunteers, say the researchers.
As the subjects were sleeping, one of the odorants was released, but this time the faces and shocks were absent. The researchers released the odorant during slow wave sleep, which is when they say "memory consolidation" occurs.
After the subjects awoke, they were then shown both faces. However, when presented with the face linked to the odor they smelled during sleep, their fear levels were lower than when the saw the other face...
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