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Biotech Medicine

Controlling Fear By Modifying DNA 105

An anonymous reader writes "The fear of flying or of skittering spiders can mean more than just a momentary increase in heart rate and a pair of sweaty palms. A hard-core phobia can lead to crippling anxiety. Now an international team of researchers says it believes it has found a way to silence the gene that feeds phobic fear via a novel mechanism of gene regulation associated with fear extinction. The notion appears to be that phobias arise from experiences that have left an outsized imprint on gene expression, and that undoing this can undo the anxiety itself. The study was published this month (abstract) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
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Controlling Fear By Modifying DNA

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  • by guytoronto ( 956941 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:08PM (#46941921)
    At least, that's what Will Smith told me.
  • by brainstem ( 519778 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:10PM (#46941941)
    Um yea, I don't see ANY potential problems by altering someone's genetics to remove fear. This reads like a bad sci-fi movie plot.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:30PM (#46942069)

      Lack of fear as a child has been correlated with development of criminal behavior later in life:

      While reducing the fear response could be useful as a treatment for a crippling phobia, it would almost certainly contribute to risky behavior as well.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Probably, but even if you take aware natural fears like claustrophobia or fear of snakes, spiders or the dark you'll still have intellectual fears. Nobody naturally fears going to prison - okay maybe the claustrophobia or the prison rapes but not the deprivation of liberty as such, that's an intellectual thing because you've learned about the law where your rational mind tells you that if you do crime you might get caught and might go to prison. If there's a correlation I think it's because you become more

      • A phobia is a lot different from a regular fear, and different in more than just a degree of fear. This treatment, if the research pans out, is not about removing fear but about fixing specific phobias.

        I've got a phobia, and it is not like your general anxiety or misgivings about a situation. You can walk into a situation and think everything is fine and then suddenly freeze up. Sort of like going to the humane shelter to pick out a puppy and when you get there the sound of barking causes your palms to sw

    • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 )
      Good thing this has nothing to do with that right?

      btw, if you actually read it, it reads nothing like a bad sci-fi movie.

    • The Bene Gesserit found out what can go wrong when you breed fear out.

    • Um yea, I don't see ANY potential problems by altering someone's genetics to remove fear. This reads like a bad sci-fi movie plot.

      Your fear of having your DNA modified can be dealt with by a simple DNA modification...

  • The Divergent series is all about gene manipulation including the fear gene. If only it was a more logical take on a society using gene manipulation. Anyone who read the Divergent series all the way through must be wishing they had this fear controlling gene modified so they wouldn't have had to suffer through the last two books.
  • Easier than that. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:14PM (#46941963) Homepage

    Simple feed the children LEAD. IT will suppress the fear triggers and make them far more hostile.

    If you want to build the perfect warrior, then just do what the romans and the vikings did. Lead dosing.

    • Simple feed the children LEAD ... If you want to build the perfect warrior...

      An interesting idea, but modifying "fear DNA" is a great step towards bio-engineering "warrior drones". Think Tyrell Corporation...

  • by Jmc23 ( 2353706 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:35PM (#46942101) Journal
    Since nobody reads, or seems to understand, they are not manipulating any genes here.

    They found that learning to extinguish fear causes expression of a gene.

    In common western medicine fashion, the important thing here is not that behavioural methods are effective in changing gene expression, but we can now remove the stimulus for gene expression (a persons conscious control) and package it up into a pill to sell for profit!

  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:37PM (#46942119) Homepage
    they want to screw with our minds? Worse - with fear? You can't like start with getting rid of diabetic tendencies? Or even give us the power to choose our own skin color? One sure way to end racism in the US at least (of course we would probably have to change hair type as well).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Stop posting on slashdot. You could have spent this time programming.

      (just because you don't think reducing fear excitation is a valuable use of these researchers' time doesn't mean it isn't valuable, or that they should be doing other things)

    • Medication to change skin color would result in a lot of strife. For example it is simply easier to be a white person that a darker person in America. I think that given the option most black folks would want to be white or at least have their kids be white. That would almost cause an extermination in appearance of black folks. It might also mean that black folks who are very dark would want to appear a bit less black at the very least. One can only imagine the shock of change and the response of
      • You appear to believe me when I said there would be a large market for it, but prefaced your agreement with me with an unsupported comment that it would cause strife. How? Why? People upset that others used their color? That sounds like complaining, not strife. Note I assume that the process would be cheap enough for middle class people to purchase.
  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @02:38PM (#46942131)
    I am confident that none of this work was secretly funded by the armed forces.
  • There's no need to modify DNA to ease phobias, you just have to get over whatever personal issue is holding you back.

    I used to have an irrational fear of spiders, then I moved to a house with lots of spiders. Phobia cured.
    • My phobia is getting worse as I get older. I didn't even have it in my 20s.

      One of the problem is that I do think to myself that it's just a stupid thing and that I should act like an adult and not let it bother me. But then it does bother me enough that I feel the panic rising. When it's over I'm beating myself up for being stupid and not acting like an adult, with all of that fueled by the leftover surge of adrenaline.

      Mine's not that bad, but imagine someone who felt they had to walk down the street to

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do you want Reavers? Because that's how you get Reavers.

  • by CheshireDragon ( 1183095 ) on Wednesday May 07, 2014 @03:22PM (#46942549) Homepage
    I could be both good and bad.

    The good thing is that religion would end because no one would fear that Hell place that is crammed into ones head as a child, but the bad thing could be that we may die out sooner because we would not fear the bear coming to eat us.
    The deeper side though thinks that this might be a GREAT idea because I am afraid of heights and flying. In order for me to get on a plane I have to pretty much take enough sedatives to kill a horse. There isn't anything out there strong enough to where I have no clue of my surroundings. I also have anthropophobia which causes me to work from home and conduct business over the phone, text, email or online. It is very difficult for me to be around crowds of more than 5-6 people at a time.
    • "The good thing is that religion would end because no one would fear that Hell place that is crammed into ones head as a child, but the bad thing could be that we may die out sooner because we would not fear the bear coming to eat us."

      IOW it's great for New Yorkers but they already don't believe in God and also not in bears.

      The military will want it to make soldiers not to fear bullets or death, after all only 25% of the soldiers are able to fire their weapons because of fear.

  • I stand by the fact that people who aren't afraid of heights have brains that don't work correctly. Your brain is trying to keep your dumb ass alive by making you not go near ledges and stuff. We're afraid of bugs and spiders because they're often poisonous. Same with snakes. I'm not afraid of snakes at all so guess who's more likely to get bit, me or someone who's afraid of snakes? So why correct something that is a benefit? You know what my solution to spider phobia is? Kill the spider.
    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I don't fear snakes either. That doesn't mean I don't give them a wide margin until I positively identify them as non-poisonous. At least I don't run for cover when I see a snake only to discover that my hiding place has spiders.

    • There are other phobias that have little to do with normal situations. Such as not afraid of heights but afraid of bridges. Afraid of the number thirteen. And so on.

      So you think you just get rid of spider phobia by killing it. How do you kill it if you can't even be in the same room? If you try to kill it with a broom and then your brain starts screaming that it's going to run up the broom and get to you, and that maybe if you stay still it won't notice you're there. It's really funny if it's someone

  • Next on the agenda, we clone Jem'Hadar [] and become galactic overlords.

  • All hail the Daleks! Destroy the humans! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"