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Fish Forget their Phobias

Posted on Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Snakes? heights? Research published in Behavioral and Brain Function reports the results of a very interesting study addressing fear. The study, held at the University of Hiroshima, Japan, looked into curing fear in goldfish. The goldfish, were classically conditioned to fear a light flash by associating an electric shock with it. Fear in these goldfish was identified by measuring their decreased heart rate. The fish quickly began displaying “fear” in response to the light flash, even after an electric shock was not administered.

Masayuki Yoshida and Ruriko Hirano found that if they first inject the cerebellum of the goldfish with lidocaine, they were unable to “learn” the fear response to the light. These fish showed stable heart rates throughout the experiment. However, as soon as the lidocaine (an anesthetic) wore off, the fish resumed fearful response.

The researchers report that since goldfish and mammal brains share many characteristics, they hope this study might lead into expanded understanding of the chemical and biological processes associated with fear and phobias in humans.

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