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Scented naps can dissipate fears

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

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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.

Katherina Hauner and Jay Gottfried of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and their colleagues first taught 15 (awake) volunteers to fear the combination of a face and odor. Participants saw a picture of a certain man’s face and at the same time smelled a distinctive scent, such as lemon. This face-odor combo

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