Is there a way to turn the traumatic memory down?
"This is the first step toward figuring that out," Glanzman said. "Even after we know this, we will still need a way to target the memory. We have captured the memory in the dish, but we also have to know where in the brain the memory is."
Does he think it will become possible to target and weaken specific traumatic memories?
"I do," Glanzman said. "Not in the immediate future, but I think we will be able to go into one's brain, identify the location of the memory of a traumatic experience and try to dampen it down. We can do this in culture, and there is no essential difference between the synapse in culture and the synapse in your brain. We have captured the memory in the dish; now we have to figure out a way to target the memories in human brains. Once we know the neural circuit that contains the memory, then we need a selective way to inhibit the activity of PKM in that circuit."
People have different brain circuits collections of neurons and synapses that join neurons for different memories, Glanzman believes. Scientists may seek to inhibit PKM in a particular circuit. The goal would be to find the brain circuit that is predominantly associated with a traumatic memory and target PKM in that circuit.
If you boost rather than inhibit PKM activity, might that have a beneficial affect for patients with Alzheimer's disease? Alzheimer's disease appears to initially disrupt the synaptic basis of learning, Glanzman said, and PKM might be involved in that disruption.
Just as scientists are seeking to target and kill cancer cells without damaging healthy cells, Glanzman intends to study whether it is possible to weaken only certain synapses associated with traumatic memories, while leaving other memories intact.
"The brain is the most complicated organ in the body," Glanzman said, noting that the brain has many trillion
|Contact: Stuart Wolpert|
University of California - Los Angeles