Researchers Discover Path To Erase Fear From the Brain
A new study conducted by the researchers from the Uppsala University, in Sweden, reveals that there is a way to erase newly formed emotional memories. This is a breakthrough finding in the research field of memory and fear.
The lead author of the study, Thomas Ågren, has managed to show that these newly formed emotional memories can be completely erased from the human brain. Ågren was supervised by Tomas Furmark and Mats Fredrikson, both professors at the Uppsala University.
Long term memory is based on the formation of several proteins. These proteins are part of the consolidation process that occurs when a person learns something new. Remembering something causes the memory to become unstable for short amount of time, only to recover through another consolidation process. The explanation is that when the remembering process occurs, the person doesn’t actually remember what initially happened. Instead, it remembers the last time he or she thought about that particular memory. Through the disruption of the consolidation process, the content of the memory can be affected.
In the study conducted by the researchers from the Uppsala University, a neutral image was shown to the tested subjects. simultaneously, researchers administered an electric shock. Through this process, the shown image managed to cause fear, thus creating a fear memory for the subjects. Furthermore, researchers showed the picture again, in order to activate this recently formed fear memory, without applying the precedent electric shock. Researchers divided the subjects into two groups. The consolidation process of the first group was disrupted through multiple presentations of the picture, whilst the consolidation process of the second group wasn’t interrupted, although after the process was complete, the picture was shown to the group.
Researchers discovered that the group that had their consolidation process inhibited, the fear that was previously associated with the picture had dissipated. What researchers have shown is that if the consolidation process is interrupted, the memory no longer incites fear. Simultaneously, an MR-scanner was used to show that the remains of that particular fear memory had also been erased from the nuclear group of the amygdala. This nuclear group is responsible for the storage of fear memories and is found in the temporal lobe.
“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 phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks”, said Thomas Ågren.
To view the study abstract please click here.