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Chemicals in brain that helps avoid unwanted thoughts identified

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New research shows that there is a key chemical in the cerebrum that enables us to repress unwanted and unpleasant memories. This is may be a starting point for treating victims of post-traumtic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia or depression who usually experience unrelieved meddlesome thoughts.

“The ability to control our thoughts plays an important role to our wellbeing,” said Michael Anderson, a scientist from the University of Cambridge, UK.

At the point when this limit breaks down, it results in some of the most incapacitating symptoms of mental disorders: meddling memories, ruminations, pictures, hallucinations, and obsessive and tenacious anxieties,” said Anderson.

“These are the key symptoms of psychological disorders such as PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression,” he said.

Anderson compares our ability to stop ourselves from recalling specific memories and thoughts to stopping a physical activity.

The prefrontal cortex – a region at the front of the brain – plays a vital role in our ability to control our actions and has been shown to perform a similar function in regulating our thoughts. The prefrontal cortex controls the motor cortex – responsible for actions – and the hippocampus – for memories.

“Think/No-Think” process

In the study, researchers used a task called “Think/No-Think” method to identify new brain process that helps the prefrontal cortex to repress our thoughts efficiently.

The task requires participants to figure out how to associate a group of unconnected pairs of words. For example Insect/plane and ordeal/north.

Next, they were asked to repress the associated word if the cue is red or recall it if the cue is green: that is, when shown insect in red, they were required to gaze at the word but stop themselves from thinking about the associated pair “plane.”

The scientists were able to observe – using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) and magnetic resonance spectroscopy – what was going on within the regions of the brains as the participants attempted to repress their thoughts.

Scientists proved that our ability to suppress unwanted thoughts depends on a chemical inside the brain – known as the neurotransmitter – that enables messages to go between nerves cells – called GABA.

GABA is the fundamental “inhibitory” neurotransmitter in the brain, and the release of its acid by one nerve cell can repress the activities in other connected cells.

Scientists found that the concentrations of GABA within the hippocampus predicts individuals’ability to suppress the recovery process – preventing memories and thoughts from resurfacing.

Anderson feels the outcome of the study proffers a new approach to handling reoccurring thoughts in mental disorders.