Erasing memories behind PTSD

Soldiers could be cured of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by erasing memories of disturbing events, scientists believe.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that individual memories are encoded in just a few cells of the brain, and hope they will be able to switch them off using drugs.

Figures from the Ministry of Defence show that around 400 soldiers a year report symptoms of PTSD and, in the last five years, the charity Combat Stress has received nearly 10,000 referrals largely linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many more suffer similar trauma – with symptoms including flashbacks, insomnia and paranoia – from events such as child abuse, road accidents and crime.

Ex-wives.  Ex-husbands…  

Researchers hope they will be able to erase memories of traumatic events after turning off specific memories in mice.

“Although there are millions of neurons in the brain, only a few of them are necessary to form a fear or threat memory,” said Dr Sheena Josselyn, Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology.

“Our findings suggest that one day it could be possible to treat people with PTSD by erasing these traumatic memories. In these people, the memories are intrusive and disrupt their lives.

“Our goal would be to find a pharmacological way to target and inactivate just these neurons, like a heat seeking missile-like drug.”

Memories are stored in small networks of cells called “engrams” and scientists discovered they could turn off memories by surgically removing engrams in mice.

The process is similar to that portrayed in the Kate Winslet film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which characters have memories of bad relationships removed at a clinic.

In real life, Josselyn said memories would only be removed when they interfered with mental health.

She added: “We all learn from our mistakes. If we erase the memory of our mistakes, what is to keep us from repeating them?

Good point.

Do you think you would be better off if you worst memories were taken away?

 

– Stuff


Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

Tagged:
41%