Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid was a famous line in the movie The Fly. Jeff Goldblum acted in it. It does not take much to frighten most of us. Many argue that in fact fear is a vital instinct. It helps us pre-emptively protect ourselves from harm. Channelized, it can give you those vital seconds; the difference of which can mean a long life or you becoming a quick meal. Fear can however become debilitating when out of control. Especially when it can manifest as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. In such situations, intervention may be required.

Traditionally, counselling and pharmacology have been used. If you are fortunate, you will respond to this. Others need more severe intervention. Researchers in China have been working to develop interneuron that can delay the response to fear. To test this, they first instilled fear in the lab in animals. They then inserted medial ganglia cells into the amygdala. Combined with training the new cells were able to reduce renewal of fear. It did not however alter the formation of fear. They learnt during this research that they needed to implant immature cells in the brain and allow the brain to develop the cells to be effective.

It will be a while before these tests mature enough for real world conditions and can be used in humans.  Alternate research also suggests that confronting fear is an excellent way to cope. So if you are afraid of flying – fly often. Being present in the moment helps as often fear is of the past or the future. Finding meaning to coping with fear or a purpose  is also recommended. There is no magic wand perhaps. You just need to find what works for you. Otherwise, hopefully the scientists in China will solve for it clinically.