Scientists Learn to Remove Memory

Posted by Michael Pinto on Mar 12, 2007 in Science |

The Big O

This story reminds a great deal of one of my favorite anime shows “The Big O” which features an entire city that has lost it memories. Well it seems that the ability to remove memories might become reality, scientists working on a treatment for Post-traumatic stress disorder have succeeded in erasing a single memory from a lab rat. Selective amnesia drug U0126 has been shown to remove fear from lab rats who were shocked while listening to two different musical pieces. While this treatment may not work in humans it does open up an avenue of research:

Wipe out a single memory

“The brain secures memories by transferring them from short-term to long-term storage, through a process called reconsolidation. It has been shown before that this process can be interrupted with drugs. But Joseph LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science at New York University and his colleagues wanted to know how specific this interference was: could the transfer of one specific memory be meddled with without affecting others? “Our concern was: would you do something really massive to their memory network?” says LeDoux.

To find out, they trained rats to fear two different musical tones, by playing them at the same time as giving the rats an electric shock. Then, they gave half the rats a drug known to cause limited amnesia (U0126, which is not approved for use in people), and reminded all the animals, half of which were still under the influence of the drug, of one of their fearful memories by replaying just one of the tones.

When they tested the rats with both tones a day later, untreated animals were still fearful of both sounds, as if they expected a shock. But those treated with the drug were no longer afraid of the tone they had been reminded of under treatment. The process of re-arousing the rats’ memory of being shocked with the one tone while they were drugged had wiped out that memory completely, while leaving their memory of the second tone intact.”

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