Fear sharpens some senses and dulls others – Clues into PTSD

Photo of someone with their hand next to their ear

Listening to sounds

Reaction time, muscle tension, adrenaline, focus and others. These are sense that are perhaps enhanced when fear washes over us.

Oddly, the sense of distinguishing between sounds gets dulled. An article written in NewScientist describes what happens when volunteer study participants hear tones associated with pleasant smell and unpleasant smells.  Participants remember the tones associated with the pleasant smells and can pick it out of an array of sounds, however when volunteers hear a tone associated with an unpleasant smell, they have a harder time picking that out.

Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel say that evolutionarily, this makes sense.  If you hear the sound a saber toothed tiger makes, associating fear and a fight or flight response with similar sounds has an evolutionary advantage. They also say that this phenomenon could explain how when people who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) become hypersensitive and reactionary when they hear particular types of sounds.

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