Trauma switch stops us from developing irrational fear

Trauma switch stops us from developing irrational fear

Researchers have identified that receptors in our brain act as a ‘trauma switch’, commanding neurons to turn on and off, a mechanism that protects us from developing uncontrollable fear.

Researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School identified the receptors in emotional centre of our brain that stop trauma from turning into post-traumatic stress disorder.

Our brains have the extraordinary capacity to adapt to changing environments – experts call this ‘plasticity’. Plasticity protects us from developing mental disorders as the result of stress and trauma.

Researchers found that stressful events re-programme certain receptors in the emotional centre of the brain (the amygdala), which determines how the brain reacts to the next traumatic event.

These receptors (called protease-activated receptor 1 or PAR1) act in the same way as a command centre, telling neurons whether they should stop or accelerate their activity.

Before a traumatic event, PAR1s usually tell amygdala neurons to remain active and produce vivid emotions. However, after trauma they command these neurons to stop activating and stop producing emotions - so protecting us from developing uncontrollable fear.

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