Using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and brain scanning technology, a team of researchers has developed a novel method that can help remove specific fears from the brain.
The new technique that could read and identify a fear memory can pave way of treating patients with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and phobias, the study said.
Neuroscientists, from the University of Tokyo, developed 'Decoded Neurofeedback' -- which used brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain, and identify complex patterns of activity that resembled a specific fear memory.
In the study, the team included 17 healthy volunteers in whom a fear memory was created by administering a brief electric shock when they saw a certain computer image.
Using brain scanner, the researchers monitored the volunteers' mental activity and were able to spot signs of that specific fear memory. Using AI algorithms, they also developed a fast and accurate method of reading the fear.
The findings showed that the volunteers' brains showed brain patterns of that specific fear memory, even when they were resting and not consciously aware of the fear.
Because the researchers could decode these brain patterns quickly, they gave the participants a reward of small amount of money, so that the fear memories would become associated with rewards. However, the volunteers were told that the reward depended on their brain activity, although they didn't know how.
At the end of the reward therapy that continued for three days, the team showed the volunteers the pictures previously associated with the shocks.
"We could not identify enhanced activity in the amygdala -- the brain's fear centre. This meant that we were been able to reduce the fear memory without the volunteers ever consciously experiencing the fear memory in the process," said lead author Ai Koizumi from the University of Tokyo.
The study was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
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