Very young brains process memories of fear differently than more mature ones, new research indicates. The work significantly advances scientific understanding of when and how fear is stored and unlearned, and introduces new thinking on the implications of fear experience early in life.
"This important paper raises questions that are the 'tip of the iceberg' related to the very complex series of events that occur as we learn to fear something. In the real world, we become fearful, extinguish that fear, reacquire it at another time, and then conquer it yet again," says John Krystal, MD, of Yale University and director of the clinical neuroscience division of the VA National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. "Typically, we think about long-term, negative impact of fear learning, such as lifelong problems with anxiety. But this work highlights an avenue for adapting to early stresses that apparently can occur only early in life: to erase a learned fear from memory."
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