A drug used to treat high blood pressure can also facilitate a form of learning that helps patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reduce fear, research with rats suggests.

The new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examines whether dampening a neurotransmitter system that conveys stress signals to the cortex would facilitate prefrontal cortical function and enable the form of learning (called extinction) involved in suppressing fear memories.

“Patients with PTSD have trouble learning to suppress fearful memories of their traumas,” says Stephen Maren, professor of psychology at Texas A&M University. “We reasoned that the high levels of stress experienced by PTSD patients might inhibit brain areas, such as the prefrontal cortex, involved in learning to suppress fear.”

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