Posts Tagged ‘fear’

The Subversive Mental Barrier To Success

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Do we hinder our achievement of what we want by what we subconsciously fear or expect?

Morgan Giddings makes a compelling case for just this in TheScientist – “…the silent robber of your success.” We want and consciously strive for success, he suggests, while subconsciously expecting to fail or fearing failure.

Giddings describes the impact of this common psychological situation as a friction between our two mindsets. This friction generates virtual heat and hinders forward motion.  It slows us down and can stop us altogether. Time and energy that could be spent removing roadblocks or jumping hurdles is wasted in anticipating and fearing the roadblocks and hurdles.

Fear, he says, arises as a necessary psychological response to a situation that endangers our well-being. It’s useful when we’re crossing the street, not so useful when we’re trying to get ahead.

Giddings makes the point that being consciously aware of this friction can help us overcome it. We can intervene as the fear arises and choose to take positive steps to ignore it or address it.

This brings us to a related point: Our working memory provides a buffer between our conscious response to a situation and our subconscious or emotional response. When that buffer gets overloaded we can no longer think straight and revert to our instinct.

By training our working memory we increase the size of the buffer allowing ourselves to remain attentively aware, even when we’re under stress.

The Phrenology of Fear

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Mortified Mouse

Mortified Mouse

Scientists at Emory University, extending the work of others scientists who have identified the amygdala (an almond-shaped brain region) as key to our fear response, have shown that the prelimbic cortex plays a role, too.

Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, and his team found that without a critical growth factor in the prelimbic cortex mice become less prone to remember a previously frightening experience. This finding could benefit the diagnosis and treatment for anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias.

BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) has been called Miracle-Gro for brain cells. The protein protects cells from stress and stimulates them to forge new connections. Previous studies had shown that blocking BDNF’s action in the amygdala made it more difficult for fear memories to take hold.

“The prelimbic cortex is part of the medial prefrontal cortex, which appears to be important for emotional regulation in rodents as well as humans,” Ressler says. “Evidence is building that these regions may be dysregulated or even over-active in fear and anxiety disorders in humans.”

“This work is important for extending our understanding of how BDNF is important for neuronal plasticity, learning and memory,” Ressler says. “Together with our previous work, these data suggest that preventing neural plasticity in very precise, but critical brain regions, can have vastly different effects on emotional memory.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that these prefrontal cortex regions are functionally associated with regions of the brain known for a long time to be involved in emotion, such as the amygdala and hippocampus,” he adds. “Understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms of these connections in rodent models will provide scientists a better understanding of how these similar areas are functioning in humans.”

See the report in Science Codex