A new study, published in Science, paves the way for understanding future best treatment for anxiety, post-traumatic stress and panic attacks as it reveals it is possible to erase newly-formed emotional memories from the brain.
From a report, Thomas Agren, the proponent of the study explained:
”These findings may be a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like photos, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks.”
Agren, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Psychology and his two advisers Professors Mats Fredrikson and Tomas Furmark explained humans do not actually remember what originally happened, but would recall what they remembered the last time they thought about what happened.
Through the process of consolidation, the authors believe lasting and long-term memory is formed, right after taking in new information. They consider memory becomes unstable for a certain period of time when humans recall past events, places or anything. They would want to point out memory is stabilized again when another consolidation process starts.
This implies when there is no process of consolidation, somewhere in the temporal lobe, which is also linked with biological formation of proteins; long-term memory never develops. Disrupting the process of consolidation would be a logical way to destabilize long-term memory.
According to the report, the proponents conducted controlled experiment with a methodology to prove their hypothesis:
The participants in the study were shown a neutral picture, while given an electric shock at the same time. This was done so that the picture came to elicit fear, meaning the subjects formed a fear memory. The picture was then displayed without any shock in order to activate the fear memory.
The reconsolidation process was disrupted in one experimental group by repeatedly showing presentations of the image. A control group was also observed where the reconsolidation process was finished before the volunteers were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.
In turn, the experimental group was not able to reconsolidate the fear memory, the fear they had previously connected with the picture dissipated.
Referring to what Agren said about the potential promise of their findings, having viable maximum control over bad emotional memories is a great chance humanity will soon get hold of.