Dr. Timothy Bredy, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, led a new study that sheds light on the process involved in loosening the grip of fear-related memories, particularly those implicated in conditions such as phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The UCI neuroscientist and his team, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Queensland and Harvard University, have discovered a new way to modify genes associated with fear extinction, an inhibitory learning process thought to be critical for controlling fear when the response is no longer required.
“This is the first comprehensive analysis of how fear extinction is influenced by modifying DNA and we have shown that, through a unique epigenetic mechanism, our DNA has the innate capacity to respond and adapt in an experience-dependent manner,” said Bredy, also a Fellow at UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.
Bredy also shared that because these genes are involved in such an important behavioral adaptation, an understanding of how epigenetic processes regulate their function could lead to the development of targets for therapeutic intervention in fear-related anxiety disorders.
Bredy’s study was published on April 21, 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.