Psychologist uses beta-blockers to ease patients’ emotional pain

A Canadian clinical psychologist is repurposing a beta-blocker to ease the pain of emotional trauma, the BBC reports.

Alain Brunet, PhD, has developed a “reconsolidation therapy” method that uses propranolol to target the emotional pain points of certain memories, BBC journalist Jessica Murphy reported Feb. 12. Brunet has spent the past decade and a half studying PTSD in combat veterans, terror attack survivors and crime victims.

He asks his patients to take propranolol about an hour before a therapy session during which the patient is asked to write a thorough account of their trauma and then read it out loud. The propranolol helps target the emotional aspect of the person’s memory, inhibiting its reconsolidation and suppressing the pain that goes along with it.

“Often when you recall memory, if there’s something new to learn, this memory will unlock and you can update it, and it will be saved again,” Brunet said. “We’re using this enhanced understanding on how memories are formed and how they are unlocked and updated and saved again—we’re essentially using this recent knowledge coming out of neuroscience to treat patients.”

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