August 26, 2013
Science Daily/New York University
Even mild stress can thwart therapeutic measures to control emotions, a team of neuroscientists has found. Their findings point to the limits of clinical techniques while also shedding new light on the barriers that must be overcome in addressing afflictions such as fear or anxiety.
"The use of cognitive techniques to control fear has previously been shown to rely on regions of the prefrontal cortex that are known to be functionally impaired by mild stress," Phelps observed. "These findings are consistent with the suggestion that the effect of mild stress on the prefrontal cortex may result in a diminished ability to use previously learned techniques to control fear."
"Our results suggest that even mild stress, such as that encountered in daily life, may impair the ability to use cognitive techniques known to control fear and anxiety," added Candace Raio, a doctoral student in NYU's Department of Psychology and the study's lead author. "However, with practice or after longer intervals of cognitive training, these strategies may become more habitual and less sensitive to the effects of stress."