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Beyond extinction: erasing human fear responses and preventing the return of fear

Abstract

Animal studies have shown that fear memories can change when recalled, a process referred to as reconsolidation. We found that oral administration of the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol before memory reactivation in humans erased the behavioral expression of the fear memory 24 h later and prevented the return of fear. Disrupting the reconsolidation of fear memory opens up new avenues for providing a long-term cure for patients with emotional disorders.

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Figure 1: Propranolol disrupts the reconsolidation of a fear memory, but not declarative memory.

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Acknowledgements

We thank B. Molenkamp for technical help. This work was supported by a Vici grant (M.K.) from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.

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Contributions

M.K and M.S. designed the study. M.S. collected data. M.K. and M.S. analyzed the data, wrote the initial manuscript and were involved in the revision process. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Merel Kindt.

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Supplementary Figures 1–3, Supplementary Data and Supplementary Methods (PDF 132 kb)

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Kindt, M., Soeter, M. & Vervliet, B. Beyond extinction: erasing human fear responses and preventing the return of fear. Nat Neurosci 12, 256–258 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2271

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