High levels of GABA Associated with Suppression of Unpleasant Thoughts
Scientists discovered a chemical in the brain that helps suppress unpleasant memories and hallucinations, according to a new study published in November 2017.
A team of scientists from Britain’s University of Cambridge identified a chemical in the brain that helps in suppression of negative thoughts, worries, and unpleasant memories, which are key symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and schizophrenia
Prof. Michael Anderson and Dr. Taylor Schmitz, led the study and conducted a test called Think/No-Think procedure on a group of healthy test subjects. The subjects were first taught to associate a series of words with other unrelated words. For instance, they were made to associate the word “ordeal” with “roach.” They were then instructed to associate the second word when shown the first word, only if the letters of that first word were colored green and if the letters were red, they were supposed to suppress any thoughts of the associated word.
When subjects were performing the test, their brain chemistry was monitored with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The prefrontal cortex plays an important role here, however, the results also showed that GABA was directly involved in suppressing unwanted thoughts.
GABA is primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, which causes suppression of activity in other connected cells, when released. GABA concentrations within the brain’s hippocampus showed, how effectively subjects would be able to suppress words.
“What’s exciting about this is that now we’re getting very specific. Before, we could only say ‘this part of the brain acts on that part,’ but now we can say which neurotransmitters are likely important – and as a result, infer the role of inhibitory neurons – in enabling us to stop unwanted thoughts.” said Anderson.
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