Being Shown Pictures of Being Loved May Reduce Brain’s Response to Threat

Written by on November 10, 2014 in Medical Advances, Sci-Tech, Science, Technology with 0 Comments

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brainResearchers from the University of Exeter found that when individuals are briefly presented pictures of others receiving emotional support and affection, the brain’s threat monitor, the amygdala, subsequently does not respond to images showing threatening facial expressions or words. This occurred even if the person was not paying attention to the content of the first pictures.

Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brain response, researchers collected and analyzed data from 42 healthy individuals.

Their findings also suggest that being reminded of being loved and cared for dampens the threat response and may allow more effective functioning during, and activation of soothing resources after, stressful situations. This was particularly true for more anxious individuals

Previously, research has shown that brain responses to pain are reduced by similar reminders of being loved and cared for, but this is the first time the same has been shown for brain responses to threat.

“A number of mental health conditions such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are characterized by hypervigilance to threatening information, which is associated with excessive negative emotional responses, amygdala activation and a restricted ability to regulate these emotions and self-sooth,” Anke Karl, senior researcher of the study, said in a statement. “These new research findings may help to explain why, for example, successful recovery from psychological trauma is highly associated with levels of perceived social support individuals receive.”


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