Could veterans of war, rape victims and other people who have seen horrific crimes someday have the traumatic memories that haunt them weakened in their brains? In a new study, UCLA life scientists report a discovery that may make the reduction of such memories a reality.
"I think we will be able to alter memories someday to reduce the trauma from our brains," said the study's senior author, David Glanzman, a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology.
The study appears in the April 27 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, a premier neuroscience journal.
Glanzman, a cellular neuroscientist, and his colleagues report that they have eliminated, or at least substantially weakened, a long-term memory in both the marine snail known as Aplysia and neurons in a Petri dish. The researchers say they gaining important insights into the cell biology of long-term memory.
They discovered that the long-term memory for sensitization in the marine snail can be erased by inhibiting the activity of a specific protein kinase a class of molecules that modifies proteins by chemically adding to them a phosphate (an inorganic chemical), which changes the proteins' structure and activity. The protein kinase is called PKM (protein kinase M), a member of the class known as protein kinase C (PKC), which is associated with memory.
The research has important potential implications for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as drug addiction, in which memory plays an important role, and perhaps Alzheimer's disease and other long-term memory disorders.
"Almost all the processes that are involved in memory in the snail also have been shown to be involved in memory in the brains of mammals," said Glanzman, who added that the human brain is far too complicated to study directly.
PKM is rare in that while most protein kinases have both a catalytic domain, which is the
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University of California - Los Angeles