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Penn Medicine researchers discover link between fear and sound perception
Date:6/30/2013

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Another interesting finding of this study is that the effects of emotional learning on hearing perception were mediated by a specific brain region, the auditory cortex. The auditory cortex has been known as an important area responsible for auditory plasticity. Surprisingly, Aizenberg and Geffen found that the auditory cortex did not play a role in emotional learning. Likely, the specificity of emotional learning is controlled by the amygdala and sub-cortical auditory areas. "We know the auditory cortex is involved, we know that the emotional response is important so the amygdala is involved, but how do the amygdala and cortex interact together?" says Geffen. "Our hypothesis is that the amygdala and cortex are modifying subcortical auditory processing areas. The sensory cortex is responsible for the changes in frequency discrimination, but it's not necessary for developing specialized or generalized emotional responses. So it's kind of a puzzle."

Solving that puzzle promises new insight into the causes and possible treatment of PTSD, and the question of why some individuals develop it and others subjected to the same events do not. "We think there's a strong link between mechanisms that control emotional learning, including fear generalization, and the brain mechanisms responsible for PTSD, where generalization of fear is abnormal," Geffen notes. Future research will focus on defining and studying that link.


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Contact: Jessica Mikulski
jessica.mikulski@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-8369
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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