Researchers discover technique to erase newly formed memories
Erasing memories has long been a staple of sci-fi films, but researchers now believe they have made a breakthrough in making the process reality.
The groundbreaking research at Uppsala University in Sweden could lead to radical new treatments for sufferers of anxiety and post traumatic stress disorders.
It shows for the first time that newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain.
Men in Black famously used memory erasing gadgets – now scientists believe they can actually erase short term memories.
This is shown by researchers from Uppsala University in a new study now being published by the academic journal Science.
‘These findings may be a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks,’ says Thomas Ågren, who led the study.
When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins in the brain.
When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process.
‘In other words, it can be said that we are not remembering what originally happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened,’ the researchers say.
By disrupting the reconsolidation process, the team found they can change what was remembered.
In the study the researchers showed subjects a neutral picture and simultaneously administered an electric shock.
In this way the picture came to elicit fear in the subjects which meant a fear memory had been formed.
In order to activate this fear memory, the picture was then shown without any accompanying shock.
For one experimental group the reconsolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture.
For a control group, the reconsolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.
In subjects that were not allowed to reconsolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated, and the memory was rendered neutral.
At the same time, using a MR-scanner, the researchers were able to show that the traces of that memory also disappeared from the part of the brain that normally stores fearful memories, the nuclear group of amygdala in the temporal lobe.
Attribution: Daily Mail