Memories of Ex-lovers Could Soon be Prevented

Discovery
Memories of Ex-lovers Could Soon be Prevented PHOTOGRAPH: Flickr/ryan melaugh | Under CC BY 2.0

Scientists have discovered that it is possible to severe the link formed between a specific memory and an event, which are otherwise unrelated to each other. However, the event has somehow become a trigger for the memory, which is often painful. This is often a condition that is frequently experienced by PTSD patients.

PTSD And Memories

For example, a lighted candle can often trigger the memory of losing one’s family in fire for someone suffering from PTSD. However, the painful condition is not exclusive to PTSD patients alone. If a woman has gone through a breakup and was eating her favorite food while doing so, she would not be able to eat another morsel of that food for the rest of her life. For every time she encounters that food, she will recall getting dumped.

However, that day may not be far when scientists break the psychological bond between the trigger and the event. Through a study conducted on mice, it was proved that breaking the link between an event and an unrelated memory is possible, The Verge reported. The study was spearheaded by Kaoru Inokuchi, a neuroscientist at the University of Toyama in Japan. “In principle, we should be able to apply this approach to specifically dissociate a daily memory and also the traumatic event without affecting the individual memory,” Inokuchi surmised.

Establishing the Link

To begin the experiment, two separate fears were created for a group of mice. Firstly, they were taught to fear a sugar solution that made them sick every time they drink it. And secondly, they learned to fear a specific tone, which was played while they were subjected to electric shocks.

Next, the threatening tone was played while the mice were fed sugar solution. Soon it was found that the mice had grown to establish a relation between the menacing sound and sugar solution. Afterwards, as soon as the mice were fed the solution, their bodies mimicked signs of getting shocked. This was despite the absence of the tone as well as any electric shocks.

Breaking the Link

The scientists then proceeded to break the link between the two fears. But they had to do it in a way that did not destroy the original memory. To do this, the scientists used a technique called optogenetics.

They separated the neurons that preserved the original memory from the ones that recorded the trigger by eliminating the link between the two. After the procedure, the mice went back to being afraid of the solution and the tone. However, they did not fear both at the same time.

The technique has to be developed further to fit the neurological profile of humans. But this is no small feat for scientists. “The fact that you can parcel out these memories and manipulate them in a predictable fashion is remarkable,” said Sumantra Chattarji, an expert on memory at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, reported New Scientist. “This was impossible a few years ago.”

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