A simple computer-based training program may be able to rewire the brains of persons who are depressed, react hotly to emotionally charged information, or “always see the glass as half-empty,” according to researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The team flashed images that cause negative emotions – sad people, traumatic events – on a computer screen while asking subjects to concentrate on a task, also on the computer screen, that was not emotionally fraught. After repeated sessions, the subjects reacted less negatively in general to potentially charged information and situations. Using MRI scans, the scientists found the training had scaled back activity in the brain’s amygdala, where emotional reactions are centered. The study also found that the subjects increased connections between the amygdala and the portions of the frontal cortex involved in emotional regulation.
The same team authored a previous study indicating that similar training can reduce obsessive thinking about a negative life event.
TRENDPOST: The studies indicate that forms of brain training can manage or alleviate mental illnesses or emotional disturbances. Scientists recently have begun to plumb the brain’s seemingly endless plasticity, a quality that hints at non-pharmaceutical cures in the future for such conditions.