A team of neuroscientists from the University of Cambridge, Japan and the US, just figured out how to ‘erase’ specific fears and phobias from the human brain. Using a combination of artificial intelligence and brain scanning technology, scientists are hoping to forgo more traditional therapies used to help people overcome their fears, such as aversion therapy, but the repercussions of a seemingly helpful method of removing unconscious material from the brain might result in some rather colorful results.
The scientists developed a way to read and identify a fear ‘memory’ using a new technique called ‘Decoded Neurofeedback’. They utilized brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain, and identify complex patterns that resembled a specific fear memory. In the experiment, a fear memory was created in 17 healthy volunteers by administering a brief electric shock when they saw a certain computer image. When the pattern was detected, the researchers over-wrote the fear memory by giving their experimental subjects a reward.
Artificial Intelligence to Alter How the Brain Responds to Fear
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Ben Seymour, explains,
“The way information is represented in the brain is very complicated, but the use of artificial intelligence (AI) image recognition methods now allow us to identify aspects of the content of that information. When we induced a mild fear memory in the brain, we were able to develop a fast and accurate method of reading it by using AI algorithms. The challenge then was to find a way to reduce or remove the fear memory, without ever consciously evoking it.
“We realized that even when the volunteers were simply resting, we could see brief moments when the pattern of fluctuating brain activity had partial features of the specific fear memory, even though the volunteers weren’t consciously aware of it. Because we could decode these brain patterns quickly, we decided to give subjects a reward – a small amount of money – every time we picked up these features of the memory.”
The experiment continued for three days, wherein the volunteers were told they would receive a certain amount of money but that it depended upon their brain scans. They were not told how the brain scans would equate to their financial reward, and could not ‘consciously’ change what was happening.
Nonetheless, activity in the brain’s fear center, the amygdala, did indeed change, and the typical skin-sweating response that can be measured to see if someone is fearful, disappeared.
The brain essentially learned how to reprogram itself to predict something positive, instead of expecting the negative response of the shock, thus overcoming the fear of that shock.
The doctors want to build a library of brain information codes for various things that people are fearful of and that might create a pathological fear – for instance – of spiders, or riding in an elevator. They say that in principal, patients could have a regular session of decoded neurofeedback to gradually reduce their fear response that certain memories trigger.
Not So Fast
While this discovery could help people with PTSD or remove our fear of success, there are multiple ramifications for messing with the brain’s biofeedback. It isn’t all bad, as we’ve been doing this with practices like meditation, yoga, laughter, and other practices for thousands of years, but these are conscious choices to change how our thoughts are created, and thus the re-hauling of our own personal neurochemistry.
One big difference here, is that scientists are trying to use AI to override emotions, instead of bringing them to the surface so that they can be released. Since there are hundreds of thousands of neuronal cells that fire when we have any memory and all our memories are intertwined with each other, there are instances that removing a fear wouldn’t necessarily positive in the long term.
Fear is Necessary for Life
First off – fear is not inherently bad. It is what keeps us from burning our hand on a hot stove, or jumping off a 1,000-foot cliff to our untimely death. Fear can be paralyzing, but it can also be motivating. In the right doses, it can make our lives better.
It’s only when we start to imagine certain situations and circumstances that we create fear, and stress. Often fear is imagined, not real, this is true. Most of our actions are indeed tied to the ancient fight or flight response, but just turning that switch off won’t necessarily serve us in the highest way.
Many suggest that our emotions are something we must feel, and welcome, not simply turn off with the latest artificial intelligence or pharmaceutical drug. Some would attest that true healing doesn’t happen until you truly feel all your emotions – pain, fear, jealousy, anger, equally with joy, excitement, and mirth. A fear indicates that we need healing – not that we are broken.
Since our emotions manifest physically, will simply turning on a kill switch for a fear undo the underlying awareness that the body has developed for millions of years? After all, there are hundreds of thousands of neurons throughout the body, not just in the brain. The gut alone, has an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly tell us if we are hungry, cold, need to seek shelter, or any number of other life-saving feelings.
Though our emotions can be tumultuous, and yes, even fearful, they are part of what make us human.
If scientists can remove our fear of spiders, what other thoughts can they implant in our brains against our will? What other healthy, desired emotions can they eliminate? And do we really want them to?
Are the elite just polishing their psychological warfare, what the Nazis called ‘Weltenshunkrieg’ with research like this, only to add to their ability to influence, intimidate, and immortalize us? The CIA has already conducted illegal human trials in programs given the operational codename such as ‘MKULTRA’. Side projects were also created, including Project CHATTER and Project BLUEBIRD, which was later renamed Project ARTICHOKE. All of these programs were conducted to experiment with brainwashing and mind control using various techniques including drugs, electro and insulin shock.
Also noteworthy, is the fact that certain groups in support of transhumanism would like to override all natural phenomenon in the body. There are already plans for an artificial immune system, and DARPA can already hack our peripheral nervous systems (the network of nerves on the outside of our brains and spinal cords, to facilitate the development of cognitive skills) with Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), plausibly to turn people into super soldiers who can override the typical physical reactions of fear, or hack foreign intelligence and cryptography with greater acumen.
Other Effective Ways to Address Fear
Paramahansa Yogananda explains fear this way: he says that the instinct of self-preservation is the fundamental reason for fear. The soul that is identified with the body is aware of the body’s fragility and, consequently, experiences the fear of sickness, death, poverty, and old age. Most people harbor fears of this type because of the experiences of past lives. A mental indulgence in fear creates a subconscious fear habit. When something upsetting occurs, the subconscious fear habit asserts itself, magnifying the object of one’s fears.
Yogananda also says that fear ‘throws a veil over your intuition,’ so while it can be helpful, too much of fear is also harmful. The good news is that you don’t have to ‘trick’ yourself out of feeling fear. You can:
- Quiet the heart and relax the body.
- Harness the power of your will.
- Meditate on courage and calmness.
- Go on a ‘worry fast,’ shaking off your constant habit of worrying. Yogananda calls these thoughts, “poisonous drugs to the mind.”
- Just let fear arise and observe it. Attachments keep us ever fearful. The more a person’s body-consciousness expands – to include such things as a sense of possessions, a concern for one’s reputation, a sense of personal power or importance – the greater the likelihood of feeling fear. If we can simply observe this phenomenon and let it be it will often start to diminish of its own accord.
- Yogananda also attests that if a fear arises, there is still some karma that hasn’t been worked out. His advice? “Every time you meditate, your karma decreases, for at that time your energy is focused in the brain and burns up the old brain cells. After every deep meditation, you will find yourself becoming freer inside. Meditate deeply and you will erase all fears and gain the unshakeable consciousness of soul freedom.”
- Love instead of fear.
The Take Away
Training the body to be superhuman, and the mind to overcome all fear is not inherently bad. This is, in fact, part of the quest of spiritualists seeking ascension, but how we do this, and who we give the keys to our minds, is paramount. The importance of guarding our emotions – all of them – and our physical intelligence has never been more vital.
Image credit: CBS