The Values of Distractions
Study Points to a Solution for Dread: Distraction
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE
Published: May 5, 2006
The New York Times
For those who dread a colonoscopy or a root canal so much that they avoid it altogether, scientists have good news.
The first study ever to look at where sensations of dread arise in the brain finds that contrary to what is widely believed, dread does not involve fear and anxiety in the moment of an unpleasant event. Instead, it derives from the attention that people devote beforehand to what they think will be extremely unpleasant.
So the solution to dread, the researchers say, is self-distraction.
"We sort of knew that things like self-hypnosis help relieve dread, but now we know why," said Dr. Gregory S. Berns, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, who led the study.
The research, being published today in the journal Science, is "terrific, " said a leading expert on brain imaging, Dr. Read Montague, a professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine who was not involved in the study. It demonstrates that the brain "assigns a cost to waiting for something bad, so that the bad thing is worse when it's delayed farther in the future," Dr. Montague said.
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Anthony H. Risser | neuroscience | neuropsychology | brain