That is not the same as "erasing" memories, as in the 2004 movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Instead, this research suggests it is possible to prevent memories from forming in the first place, or at least from being stored long-term.
Normally, of course, an individual wants to retain his or her memories -- especially powerfully pleasurable or painful memories, which are the ones associated with dopamine release. "You want to remember where the lion's den was, so you don't go down that pathway again in the jungle," observed Marshall.
For those suffering from PTSD, however, those memories are more than mere reminders; they begin to interfere with normal everyday life.
"That's the potential application," said Marshall, "whether we can understand these brain processes well enough to protect people from these memories becoming so powerful and so deeply consolidated in the brain that they become a source of suffering."
For more information on PTSD, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
SOURCES: Randall Marshall, M.D., medical director, clinical research, Sepracor; Philip Corlett, Ph.D., Parke-Davis Exchange Fellow in Biomedical Sciences, University of Cambridge & Yale University, Department of Psychiatry, Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, Conn.; Roy Wise Ph.D., branch chief, behavioral neuroscience branch, intramural research program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.; Aug. 21, 2009, Science
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