New drug aims to wipe away fear, bad memories

Posted Sep 14, 2009 by Wang Fangqing
A new memory-cleansing medicine aims to help us forget about all the unpleasant, sad moments just as easy as you can imagine them.
The Human Brain
Brain preserved in formaldehyde.
By Gaetan Lee (CC BY 2.0)
There are some memories we wish we'd never had; the embarrassing moments, the heart-wrenching break-up and the terrible treat we got in our childhoods, yet they will likely to haunt us forever. But now, a new medicine still in research phase aims to change that.
Andreas Luthi of the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland is the guy who wants us to be happy.
According to the Daily Mail, his animal testing shows the drug erases the barrier around amygdala, the part of the brain where mammals store their fear memories. These animals were no longer afraid of the noises linked to electric shocks.
"The study uncovers a totally novel, molecular mechanism by which fear memories are preserved and protected from erasure," the study indicates. "It is highly relevant from a clinical perspective because fear memory extinction is the corner-stone of the psychological therapy of several anxiety disorders. Furthermore, it puts forward a novel explanation for the frequency of relapses of fear responses after extensive therapy, which are a major clinical problem."
Scientists believe the drug can be used on humans as well. They believe it wold be especially beneficial to soldiers who are suffering from post-war trauma, said Joseph LeDoux, professor of neuroscience at New York University.
Critics, however, worry about the drug being used maliciously to erase memories.
Among all the bad memories, public humiliation, a persistent memory, is what most people want to get rid of, according to Ashok Hegde, a neurologist at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.
More info can be found at the Friedrich Miescher Institute, online here.