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Scented naps can dissipate fears

People unlearned an odor's unpleasant accompaniment when they smelled it in their sleep

By
1:01pm, September 22, 2013
sleeping girl
SLEEPING OFF FEAR In the sleeping brain, re-experiencing aspects of an unpleasant event weakens a fearful memory, a new study suggests.

A nap can ease the burden of a painful memory. While fast asleep, people learned that a previously scary situation was no longer threatening, scientists report September 22 in Nature Neuroscience.

The results are the latest to show that sleep is a special state in which many sorts of learning can happen. And the particular sort of learning in the new study blunted a fear memory, a goal of treatments for disorders such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s a remarkable finding,” says sleep neuroscientist Edward Pace-Schott of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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