Take a look at this article from SciAm:

The big news in this study is that at least some cortical inputs to the amygdala — those from the prelimbic cortex — are involved in the expression of conditioned fear. This involvement gives learned fear a previously unrecognized anatomical component. And it establishes that there is at least one difference between the networks underlying the expression of innate and learned fears.

These observations have far-reaching implications. First, they suggest that the expression of learned fear is flexible and subject to modulation by the prelimbic cortex, depending on the circumstances; our expression of learned fears is less rigid and less automatic than the expression of innate fears, which are beyond the reach of the cortex.

These observations also raise the possibility that hyperactivity in the prelimbic region might contribute to human anxiety disorders that are caused by over-expression of learned fear, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. If that proves true, reducing the activity of the prelimbic cortex might constitute a useful strategy for the treatment of these debilitating disorders, while leaving innate fear responses intact. If learned fear is necessary, so is our ability to control it. This study reveals some dynamics that might be crucial in exercising that control.

This is good news for us. Although it’s a bit technical, what’s really being said here is that learned fear is within the reach of our thinking brain. That means we’re able to change learned fear and, subsequently, completely recover from anxiety disorders. This is probably not news to most of us (myself included) who have subscribed to this belief for quite some time now, but many people still insist that anxiety disorders are innate fears that we are born with. This research shows (yet again) that this is patently false.

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