Erase Those Unwanted Memories


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Ever have something traumatizing or embarrassing happen to you that you really just would like to forget, rather than relive over and over again? Well, this just might be possible sometime in the future. Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been able to erase dangerous drug-associated memories in mice and rats without affecting other more benign memories.
The scientists are attempting to to find strategies that will selectively eliminate evidence of past experiences that are related to drug abuse or a traumatic event.
Producing a memory is somewhat complicated. It includes the alteration of the structure of nerve cells via changes in the dendritic spines, which are small, bulb-like structures that receive electrochemical signals from other neurons.
In the new study, the scientists inhibited actin polymerization (the creation of large chainlike molecules), by blocking a molecular motor called myosin II in the brains of mice and rats during the maintenance phase of methamphetamine-related memory formation. The animals were put through behavioral tests, which showed that they immediately and persistently lost memories that were associated with methamphetamine, and had no other memories affected.
The mice and rats were trained to associate the rewarding effects of meth with a rich context of visual, tactile, and scent cues during their test. They were then injected with the inhibitor many days later in their home environment. After doing so, they later showed a complete lack of interest when they encountered drug-associated cues. However, their responses to other memories, such as food rewards, were the same as before.
The scientists believe that the role of dopamine in the tests is beneficial when it is released during both learning and drug withdrawal. Their hope is that their strategies may eventually be applicable to other harmful memories.
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