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Fear Collaboratory

Contact:  Mike Davis, PhD, mdavis4@emory.edu, Ph. 404-727-3591

At A Glance

The Fear Collaboratory focuses on understanding the neural processes underlying fear and anxiety-related disorders. Investigators examine the brain’s fear mechanisms, specifically the role of the amygdala, from molecular, cellular, behavioral and electrophysiological perspectives. Their discoveries include:

  • The medial amygdala plays a key role in fear learning and extinction in certain environments.
  • Virtual reality technology used in combination with a cognitive enhancer, d-cycloserine, improves the effectiveness of psychotherapy in treating phobias, such as fear of heights;
  • Rhesus macaque monkeys show greater fear-related responses to startle stimuli when reared by their natural mothers than when reared by a peer group of monkeys;
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a neurochemical involved in learning and memory, and its receptor are both highly activated in the amygdala of rats after they learn to fear a light paired with a mild electric foot shock;
  • Using a human version of conditional discrimination to separately evaluate fear potentiation to danger signals and fear inhibition to safety signals, data from civilian trauma and combat trauma populations indicate that the inhibition of fear to signals for safety is impaired in subjects with PTSD compared to healthy controls, even when the awareness of the signal contingencies are equivalent in trauma subjects and control subjects.
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