Published on September 21st, 2012 | by No Artificial
Fear Can Be Erased From
Researchers have found that newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain.
Thomas Ågren, from Uppsala University in Sweden under the supervision of Professors Mats Fredrikson and Tomas Furmark, has shown that it is possible to erase recently created emotional memories from the human brain.
When we learn something new, a lasting long-term memory is created with the help of a process of consolidation, which is determined by the formation of proteins. When we try to remember something, our memory becomes unstable for a while and is then re-stabilized by another consolidation process.
As a result we are not remembering what actually happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened.
By disrupting the re-consolidation process that comes after remembering, we can affect the memories.
This discovery may represent a breakthrough in research on memory and fear.
In the study the scientists showed participants a fairly neutral picture and at the same time they applied an electric shock. By doing this the image came to create fear in the contributors which meant a fear memory had been formed.
In order to trigger this fear memory, the picture was then shown without any accompanying shock. For one experimental group the re-consolidation process was interrupted with the assistance of recurring presentations of the picture.
For a control group, the re-consolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.
Because the experimental group was not allowed to re-consolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture disappeared. Simply by disrupting the re-consolidation process, the memory was rendered neutral and no longer provoked fear.
During the analysis process, the researchers have also noted that the traces of that memory also vanished from the part of the brain that normally stores fearful memories, the nuclear group of amygdala in the temporal lobe.
“Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks”, explained study author Thomas Ågren.