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Potential to Minimize Bad Memories

Innovative research by UC Irvine scientists has lead to the identification of a brain mechanism that switches off traumatic feelings associated with bad memories.

The finding is salient in that this could lead to the development of drugs to treat panic disorders.

Scientists from UCI and the University of Muenster in Germany found that a small brain protein called neuropeptide S is involved in erasing traumatic responses to adverse memories by working on a tiny group of neurons inside the amygdala where those memories are stored.

“The exciting part of this study is that we have discovered a completely new process that regulates the adverse responses to bad memories,” said Rainer Reinscheid, pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences associate professor at UCI.

“These findings can help the development of new drugs to treat conditions in which people are haunted by persistent fears, such as posttraumatic stress disorder or other panic disorders.”

The study appears in the July 31 issue of Neuron.

In tests, scientists exposed mice to situations that caused adverse memories. The scientists saw that when NPS receptors in amygdala neurons are blocked, the traumatic responses to bad memories persisted longer. In turn, when scientists treated the mice with compounds activating these receptors, traumatic responses disappeared faster.

After a traumatic experience, environmental cues often become associated with the bad experience and re-exposure to the same environment can trigger fearful emotions or even panic attacks, according to Reinscheid.

Other research has shown that forgetting such negative experiences may require “new learning,” such as re-exposure to the place where the original experience occurred but this time without any harmful consequences.

Reinscheid said this process, called the extinction of memories, occurs in both humans and laboratory animals such as mice. Until this study, scientists did not know about the specific neurons and molecules involved with extinction learning of fear memories in the brain.

Previous work by Reinscheid’s group has shown that NPS is involved in regulating wakefulness and anxiety. Last year, they found evidence that a particular genetic variant of the NPS receptor may increase vulnerability to panic disorder.

Source: University of California – Irvine

Potential to Minimize Bad Memories

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Potential to Minimize Bad Memories. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2008/07/31/potential-to-minimize-bad-memories/2677.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.