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Sniffing out danger: Rutgers scientists say fearful memories can trigger heightened sense of smell
Date:12/12/2013

ys McGann who received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for this research. "What this study does is gives us a new way of thinking about how this might happen."

In their study, the scientists also discovered a heightened sensitivity to odors in the mice traumatized by shock. When these mice smelled the odor associated with the electrical shocks, the amount of neurotransmitter chemicals that carry communications between nerve cells released from the olfactory nerve into the brain was as big as if the odor were four times stronger than it actually was.

This created mice whose brains were hypersensitive to the fear-associated odors. Before now, scientists did not think that reward or punishment could influence how the sensory organs process information.

The next step in the continuing research, McGann says, is to determine whether the hypersensitivity to threatening odors can be reversed by using exposure therapy to teach the mice that the electrical shock is no longer associated with a specific odor. This could help develop a better understanding of fear learning that might someday lead to new therapeutic treatments for anxiety disorders in humans, he says.


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Contact: Robin Lally
rlally@ucm.rutgers.edu
732-932-7084 x652
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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