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Magnesium supplement helps reduce fear memory and anxiety

Neuroscientists at Tsinghua University in Beijing show that increasing brain magnesium with a new compound not only can enhance learning abilities and memory, but also could help in treating anxiety disorders such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Fear is essential for survival. However, having excessive-uncontrollable fear or experiencing strong fearful events can lead to anxiety disorders such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recent studies from this group demonstrated that increasing brain magnesium with a new magnesium compound (MagteinTM) enhances the learning and memory abilities in rats. Therefore, increase in magnesium intake might be beneficial for maintaining or even enhancing

the cognitive ability of individuals. In a recently published study, the neuroscientists investigated the effects of increasing magnesium intake on the formation
and control of emotional memories, particularly fear memory. They found that increasing brain magnesium, in rats, does not enhance or impair their fear memory. However, interestingly following extinction learning, a cognitive therapy-like procedure, magnesium treated rats exhibited better control over their fear responses.

Mechanistically, Dr. Guosong Liu, Dr. Nashat Abumaria and their colleagues found that magnesium treatment induced a unique pattern of action on brain regions involved in emotional processes. In a way, increasing brain magnesium did not enhance the function of an evolutionary conserved brain region involved in fear memory formation called the amygdala. Meanwhile, the function of the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in controlling fear responses, was enhanced by magnesium treatment.

For human, daily magnesium intake is largely coming from consumption of magnesium enriched diet. However, modernized food processes reduce the magnesium contents in natural food. As a result, a significant portion of the human population in industrialized countries may not take in a sufficient amount of dietary magnesium. Their study suggests that increasing dietary magnesium intake, or taking a magnesium supplement, might be helpful in controlling fear responses and reducing anxiety.

The study is published in the October issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

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