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'No Fear' Pill On It's Way?

'No Fear' Pill On It's Way?

By Emma Norman

Spiders, heights, confined spaces, snakes, mice, water, gherkins…what do they all have in common? Phobias. Panic follows them around like a dog follows the fat kid with a burger.

But fear no more. Neuroscientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to control terror.

They have shown that in the brain there is a kinase enzyme called Cdk5 which can change your fear of particular situations.

Altering the level of activity of the kinase can affect the amount of fear someone feels. When the kinase is inhibited, fear that has developed through a traumatic experience can stop. Yet when the Cdk5’s activity is increased, the fear persists.

The discovery could be life changing for sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some of whose memories of and reactions to traumatic events never go away and may even get worse with time. The US National Centre for PTSD claims that approximately 8% of the population will suffer symptoms at some point in their lives.

But is no fear really going to help the rest of us? Think about the things daily that you don’t do because of fear. All those little ‘what ifs’ that you really want to know the answer to but are too frightened to put to the test. For example, taunting lions with steaks, roller skating down the steepest hill in town and James Bond-esque leaping between tall buildings. Fear keeps us alive!

The old addage (if you’re into trendy casual wear) ‘No Fear’ may appear cool, but let’s face it if no one had fear the whole world would go kamikaze. Complete carnage would ensue for sure and civilisation would go to pot.

Knowing this, those of us comfortable with our wussiness can live in smug satisfaction that our Cdk5 kinases are functioning well and maintaining an aura of sanity around us.

Visit Emma's page for more top science for follow the links below:

- Allergies - This is getting nutty
- Bizarre - The future of mind control
- Pure terror - Get to grips with some funny phobias

Image: Lars Sundström

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05 Sep 2010
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