Scientists have succeeded in erasing the memory of a traumatic event while leaving other, associated memories intact.


The work, which is published online by the journal Nature Neuroscience, was partly funded by the EU under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Original Post at Cordis (Community Research & Development Information Service), Record control number (RCN): 27437, Quality validation date: 2007-04-03
When memories are first made, they are sensitive to disruption for a certain time until they are stored in a stable, long-term state. However, when events are recalled from long-term memory, they become sensitive again to disruption and may be updated before being stabilised again for long-term storage. The aim of this latest research was to find out whether it was possible to take advantage of this system to wipe out the initial memory.
The researchers trained rats to be frightened of two distinct sounds by playing the sounds and then sending an electric shock to their paws. The next day, half the rats received a drug which is known to cause amnesia for events recalled from memory, and the researchers played one of the sounds again.
On the following day, the researchers again played both sounds to all the rats. They found that the animals who had not received the drug were still frightened by both sounds. However, the rats which had received the drug were no longer disturbed by the sound they had heard while drugged. By playing one note and prompting the recall of the electric shock memory while under the influence of the drug, the traumatic memory was erased. However, the memory of the shock associated with the other note remained intact.
Further studies showed that when remembering a traumatic memory, neuronal activity in the part of the brain associated with emotional memory increased. However, in drugged rats neuronal activity decreased. The researchers hope their findings will lead to treatments for post-traumatic stress.
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