Sunday, September 29, 2013

Research suggests that some fears may be overcome through a combination of scent and sleep.

Scientists at Northwestern University say they have lowered levels of fear in people by using certain odors to trigger and rechannel frightening memories into harmless ones during deep sleep.

Researchers created an artificial "fear" in 15 healthy subjects by showing them photos of different faces and applying electric shocks when two of the photos were shown. Conditioning also included associating each face with a particular odor.
Fear was detected through a process similar to a lie detector test, which measured small amounts of sweat in the skin. After several trials the participants became afraid of the face and the smell associated with it; the scent was then used to trigger "fear memories" during deep sleep in order to allow patients to avoid the stress of conscious terror. 

The subjects then napped for a couple of hours. Whenever they fell into a deep phase known as slow-wave sleep, they were given the odor associated with one of the two "scary" faces, but without the accompanying jolts.
The subjects were allowed to stay in slow-wave sleep for periods ranging from five to 40 minutes: the effect was strongest for those who slept for longest.

After the subjects awoke, they again went through the process of being shown the series of different faces. This time they weren’t as afraid of the face with the scent they had been exposed to during sleep, however they remained fearful of the other, whose associated odor they hadn’t been exposed to during sleep.
Also, those who were exposed to the scent for the longest total time while sleeping were less afraid of the face than those who had smelled it for a short time.
The subjects did not know what happened during their sleep.

Researchers also used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). The fMRI results showed changes in regions associated with memory, such as the hippocampus, and changes in patterns of brain activity in regions associated with emotion, such as the amygdala. These brain changes reflected a decrease in reactivity that was specific to the targeted face image associated with the scent presented during sleep. 

Sleep plays a key role in memory consolidation, which involves parts of the brain replaying the events of the day and choosing which parts to store for safekeeping and which to forgo. 

Dr. Jay Gottfried, PhD., senior author of the study, says "Sleep sort of stamps memories in more strongly: that’s when a lot of memory formation can take place.”

People with phobias are already commonly treated with "gradual exposure" therapy while they are awake, where they are exposed to the thing they are frightened of in incremental degrees. This study suggests that the theory could be extended to therapy while they are in slow-wave, or deep, sleep.

 "It's a novel finding," said Katherina Hauner, a postdoctoral fellow in neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We showed a small but significant decrease in fear. If it can be extended to pre-existing fear, the bigger picture is that, perhaps, the treatment of phobias can be enhanced during sleep." 

The study was published in the Sept. 22 journal Nature Neuroscience.


Monday, September 23, 2013

January 24 & 25 Houston Sleep Medicine Conferences

The Sleep Education Consortium is pleased to present the 10th Annual Sleep Education Consortium Conference:
This conference is designed to present important clinical information on sleep disorders that can be implemented into the practice of primary care physicians. Materials will be presented in a case based fashion with specific clinical cases that exemplify the type of problems presented to most practitioners.
Course materials will include reference materials and assessment tools such as questionnaires that can be used in primary care settings. There will be discussions on how to respond to the results provided from a diagnostic sleep study, as well as the indications for obtaining such tests.

This activity has been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and Policies of the Accreditation Council for continuing Medical Education through the joint sponsorship of the Texas Medical Association and The Sleep Education Consortium, Inc. The Texas Medical Association (TMA) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The TMA designates this live activity for a maximum of 8 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should only clam credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Register Now at

This conference architects the growing link between dentistry and sleep medicine, and it will become clear how the dentist can play a larger role in the overall health of patients. Gain the knowledge you need to address your patient’s sleep concerns in a two day comprehensive course tailored to provide dental professionals with the essentials to build their dental practice in this evolving area of dentistry.
The Houston Sleep Education Consortium presents a unique opportunity to learn about the dentists’ role in sleep disorders treatment (we don't just treat "a" disorder).
In an effort to provide the best educational experience the conference dedicates one day of lectures specifically designed to address the educational needs of the D.D.S., and the second day of lectures has a Break Out Session for the dental support staff. Also, the second day is open to all health care professionals and has a broader range of sleep related lecture topics.
Registration is available for the first day alone or both days (highly recommended). By addressing the patients' questions regarding sleep issues, the dentist and support staff can be grounded in the broader aspect of sleep disorders on a basic level. Attending both days of the conference will allow the dentist and support staff to become familiar with a multitude of sleep problems, and they can be more responsive to questions patients may ask as the dentist screens for sleep disorders within their practice. The educational methods will include lectures, Q&A and panel discussion.
Obtain 8 hours of continuing education credit for each day of attendance of this exciting and informative seminar that is sure to expand your practice.
A CE Course for a total 16 hours of AGD and ADA-CERP approved credits. 

Register Now at


For more information please contact:
The Sleep Education Consortium Inc.,
PO Box 16820, Sugar Land, TX 77496.

For Hotel Reservations:
Houston Marriott at the Texas Medical Center
6580 Fannin Street
Houston, Texas 77030
Phone: 1-(713)-796-0080
Fax: 1-(713)-770-8100