Bad memories often taint the mind. For some, victims of post-traumatic stress, they are so violent that they resist treatment and prevent a normal life. A neuroscientist, working on the mechanisms of learning, accidentally discovered that some bad memories can be erased forever. A drug for this purpose could be on the market within the next ten years.
Desearchers at European Molecular Biology Laboratory based in Heidelberg, Germany, headed by Cornelius Gross, published a study in March in the journal Nature. They present their discovery of a brain pathway related to the active erasure of memories.
They uncovered a very paradoxical phenomenon: while learning, the brain activates a neuronal circuit to forget. By observing what was happening in mice in a region of the hippocampus, the jagged gyrus, they found that this area was responsible for both forgetting and memory formation. The doctors explain that "New information enters this area through a main pathway, and when memories are consolidated, connections between neurons are strengthened... ». By blocking this pathway, they found that mice were no longer able to perform Pavlovian learning. They had forgotten it.
Indeed, by blocking the seahorse's memory network, an unexpected consequence occurred: the neural connections weakened strongly, indicating that the memories had been purely and simply erased.
" It was a fortuitous discovery "says Cornelius Gross to our colleagues in Mic. He's suing, "By blocking the pathways, we saw a rapid loss of strength in the synapses. Within half an hour the mouse was losing everything it had learned in a week. "
Dr. Gross' hypothesis is that the synapse blockage acted as if a pipe was being strangled. According to him, the memories still exist, but they would no longer be accessible.
Cornelius Gross says that a drug may be available that will allow something hitherto unknown, except in science fiction films: the possibility of erasing certain areas of memory, especially those that are memorized by learning.
Thus, in order for the drug to work, the subject will have to be exposed to situations he or she wants to forget, as in a learning mechanism. If you are afraid of spiders, you will be shown spiders. And it is this forced learning phase that will allow the traumatic memory to be erased.
Such a drug will not see the light of day for about ten years and many clinical trials. It could be very effective in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for which the only treatment currently available is psychotherapy, which, according to Dr. Gross, only works in 20 to 30 % cases.