Scientists have developed a method which changes how a person’s brain functions to boost confidence and eradicate fears.
It is believed the technique may have the potential to treat psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias and anxiety.
Dubbed ‘Decoded neurofeedback’, the technology is still in its infancy and while Japanese researchers have found it works, it is not effective for everyone.
The team have therefore published their findings in the hope other experts can help improve the procedure.
A combination of artificial intelligence and MRI imaging were used by experts from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) in Seika, Japan.
They found an fMRI scanner can provide real-time brain activity which can be compared to previous recordings.
For example, the brain of a person with arachnophobia will respond in a particular way when confronted with a picture of a tarantula and this is recorded by a computer.
But the brain’s natural activity variation means a response which looks the same will also occur at random times.
At the points where this aligns with the fear-invoked response, researchers gave a monetary reward to the participants.
Eventually, this positive reinforcement rewires the brain so that when the person is triggered with a spider again, they do not respond in the same way.
‘The simple action of repeatedly providing a reward every time the pattern is detected modifies the original memory or mental state,’ explains Dr Mitsuo Kawato of ATR.
‘Importantly, participants do not need to be aware of the patterns’ content for this to work.’
Data was obtained from more than 60 people who took part in five separate studies and all the data was collated into one database.
‘The Decoded Neurofeedback approach could have major benefits for clinical populations over traditional treatments,’ lead author Dr Aurelio Cortese said.
‘Patients could avoid the stress associated with exposure therapies, or side-effects resulting from established drugs.
‘As such, it is crucial we accelerate the development of the Decoded Neurofeedback technique – and this will only be possible if more scientists will be able to work on the actual data.’
The full findings are available in Scientific Data.
Working out for just 2.5 hours a WEEK can slash your risk of migraines
Exercising for just two-and-a-half hours a week can reduce your risk of migraine, a new study suggests.
Researchers at a headache clinic at the University of Washington looked into the amount of exercise achieved per week by patients diagnosed with migraine.
They found exercising above the two-and-a-half hour threshold – the minimum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – reduced migraine triggers like anxiety and poor-quality sleep.
In their sample of more than 4,500 adults with migraine, 73 per cent got less than two-and-a-half hours a week, they found.
Migraine is a common health condition, affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men, according to the NHS.