It might sound like a scene straight from a science fiction flick, but scientists claim they have found a way to permanently delete painful memories from the mind.
John Hopkins University researchers said the find could lead to drugs for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person’s life,” the Daily Mail quoted Dr Richard L Huganir as saying.
“Our finding describing these molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in that process raises the possibility of manipulating those mechanisms with drugs to enhance behavioural therapy for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder,” he added.
Huganir and Roger Clem focused on the nerve circuits in the amygdala, the part of the brain known to underly so-called fear conditioning in people and animals. They observed that certain cells in the amygdala conducted more current after the mouse was exposed to a loud, sudden tone.
They found temporary increases in the amount of particular proteins within a few hours of fear conditioning; these proteins are uniquely unstable and can be removed from nerve cells.
“The idea was to remove these proteins and weaken the connections in the brain created by the trauma, thereby erasing the memory itself,” Huganir said.
Huganir suggested that drugs designed to control and enhance the removal of calcium-permeable AMPARs might be used to improve memory erasure.
“This may sound like science fiction, the ability to selectively erase memories. But this may one day be applicable for the treatment of debilitating fearful memories in people, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome associated with war, rape or other traumatic events.”
The report appears in Science Express.