Being reminded of being loved and cared for dampens the threat response and may allow more effective functioning during, and activation of soothing resources after, stressful situations, the study noted.

"These new research findings may help to explain why, for example, successful recovery from psychological trauma is highly associated with levels of perceived social support individuals receive," said senior researcher of the study Anke Karl from the University of Exeter in Britain.

The study discovered that when individuals are briefly presented pictures of others receiving emotional support and affection, the brain's threat monitor, the amygdala, subsequently does not respond to images showing threatening facial expressions or words.

The findings may help refine existing treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"A number of mental health conditions such as PTSD are characterised by hypervigilance to threatening information, which is associated with excessive negative emotional responses, amygdala activation and a restricted ability to regulate these emotions and self-sooth," Karl added.

Forty-two healthy individuals participated in the study, in which researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) to study the brain response.

The study appeared in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

 

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