Press Release: Activating Brain's "Safety Circuit" Can Buffer Against Stress
April 25, 2005
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have identified a "safety circuit" in the brain which, when activated, seems to buffer against stressful and anxiety-provoking events, according to a newly-released study in the journal Neuron.
"This new finding has enormous implications for healing anxiety and related disorders, including depression and PTSD," says psychologist Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of the highly-acclaimed Creating Optimism: A Proven, Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression (McGraw-Hill, paperback 2005). "The key healing factor is enabling people to activate that safety circuit. In our Uplift Program, we've been teaching people how to do just that, and now we have an even greater understanding of that safety mechanism in the brain."
The Columbia researchers discovered that when mice were in an unsafe situation there was increased activity in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which processes emotions and is activated in fear responses. As long as the mice were in that unsafe situation, nothing would decrease their anxiety.
However, when they were allowed to enter an area where they felt safe, a previously unknown "safety circuit," which exists deep within the brain, was activated. This area is responsible for the good feelings associated with safety and security and is in a part of the brain responsible for happiness and good feelings.
Once the mice were in the safe space and this area had been activated, then events that normally triggered fear responses in the amygdala had little effect.
In humans with mood disorders, the amygdala is often hyper-active and doesn't stop sending alarm signals even when danger has passed or is seen to be a false alarm.
According to Dr. Murray, "This finding helps explain why our program has a 94% success rate in follow-up questionnaires. We've always realized that feeling safe was the basis for resilience and healing mood disorders, and that humans do this through a network of supportive relationships. We give people highly effective and practical tools for creating secure and trustworthy relationships in their families, at work and with friends, which activate the brain's innate mechanism for healing."
The international Uplift Program, which Dr. Murray founded with his partner, Alicia Fortinberry, offers effective solutions to mood disorders that don't necessarily involve medication, is sponsored by leading healthcare institutions including the University of South Florida and California Institute of Integral Studies.
Read more in Neuron
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Contact: Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry
In the US
Tel: + 1-775-321-8214
Tel: + 61-2-9909-8848
About the Authors
Dr Bob Murray is a widely published psychologist and expert on emotional health and optimal relationships. Alicia Fortinberry is a psychotherapist, health writer and executive coach. Together they are the founders of the highly successful Uplift Program, and authors of Raising an Optimistic Child (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and Creating Optimism (McGraw-Hill, 2004).
For media and review copies of Creating Optimism in the US:
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