Keep up with the news by installing RT’s extension for . Never miss a story with this clean and simple app that delivers the latest headlines to you.

 

​Scientists learn to selectively erase and restore memories in brain

Published time: June 04, 2014 23:41
Edited time: June 06, 2014 23:19
Reuters / STR

Reuters / STR

Wiping out memories at a press of a button – just like with a ‘neuralizer’ from the Men in Black movie – may soon become a reality. Researchers have managed to erase and then restore lost memory in genetically modified rats with a flash of light.

The study by researchers from University of California in San Diego, published in Nature journal , is the first cause-and-effect evidence that strengthening or weakening connections between neurons in the brain can influence particular memories.

“We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections,” study senior researcher Dr. Roberto Malinow, a professor of neurosciences said in a university press release.

The neuroscientists’ findings may hold big potential for the treatment of such diseases as Alzheimer's and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To prove their theory, Malinow and his colleagues resorted to a state-of-the art technique – optogenetics. Optical lasers were applied to stimulate a group of nerves in the brains of rats that had been genetically engineered to make them sensitive to light. Simultaneously, they sent an electrical shock to the animal's foot.

Soon, the rats learned to see the connection between the optical stimulation and the pain and displayed fear every time the nerves were stimulated. Further analyses revealed that chemical changes occurred within the optically stimulated nerve synapses, which indicates the synaptic strengthening of that memory.

AFP Photo / Marco Longari

In the next stage, the scientists stimulated the same nerves in a different way – with a memory-erasing, low-frequency sequence of optical pulses. Eventually the rats no longer responded to the nerve-situation with fear, which indicated that the pain-association memory had been erased.

The work’s most striking finding though was the lost memories could be restored by the re-stimulation of the same nerves with memory-forming, high-frequency pulses. Such re-conditioned rodents yet again responded with fear to the stimulation. And that is while they had not had their feet shocked this time.

“We can cause an animal to have fear and then not have fear and then to have fear again by stimulating the nerves at frequencies that strengthen or weaken the synapses,” explained the study’s lead author Sadegh Nabavi.

It is too early to speak about using the same technology on humans, but researchers believe it could have potential benefits and clinical applications.

The beta amyloid peptide that accumulates in the brains of people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease weakens synaptic connections in much the same way that low-frequency stimulation erased rats’ memories, Malinow said.

“Since our work shows we can reverse the processes that weaken synapses, we could potentially counteract some of the beta amyloid’s effects in Alzheimer's patients,” he said.

Comments (55)

 

Tatenda Gatsi 08.07.2014 17:52

Beware of formatting your brain, for good

 

Luis Humberto Alcalde 04.07.2014 09:35

I've been in a situation that I can't get out of mind and I would love to erase that memory . I hope this acually effects peoples brain to earase memories.

 

Matthew Brown 03.07.2014 12:34

This is a very interesting study, and this work seems invaluable. I had a one-off situation years ago that I can't get over, and I would love to have it erased, because it's an unnecessary memory. However, to take a dark turn, say for instance a young girl is raped while she's drunk, and she is massively traumatised, as one would expect. If you were to remove that memory, would she not be vulnerable to it happening again? Or could you eventually fine tune the process so that someone is "aware" something bad happened, without the ability to remember the details? I'd love to hear enlightened views on this please :-)

View all comments (55)
Add comment

Authorization required for adding comments

Register or

Name

Password

Show password

Register

or Register

Request a new password

Send

or Register

To complete a registration check
your Email:

OK

or Register

A password has been sent to your email address

Edit profile

X

Name

New password

Retype new password

Current password

Save

Cancel

Follow us

Follow us