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Researchers find way to suppress certain types of memories


December 5, 2012

Researchers at Canada’s Western University have found a way to effectively block certain types of memories (Image: Shutterstock)

Researchers at Canada’s Western University have found a way to effectively block certain types of memories (Image: Shutterstock)

We’re all carrying around some cringe-inducing memories that we’d rather forget. But for those suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), recalling certain memories can provoke fearful, emotional experiences. By the same token, some memories can remind those battling drug addiction of the rewarding effects of the drug and trigger a relapse. Researchers at Canada’s Western University have found a way to effectively block these types of memories that could lead to better treatments for both conditions.

Using a rat model, neuroscientists at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry found that they could completely prevent the recall of both aversive and reward-related memories by stimulating a sub-type of dopamine receptor called the “D1” receptor in the prefrontal cortex.

Importantly, unlike the process used in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that permanently erased certain memories, the Western University team’s approach only controls the spontaneous recall of the aversive and reward-related memories, leaving the actual memory intact.

“The precise mechanisms in the brain that control how these memories are recalled are poorly understood, and there are presently no effective treatments for patients suffering from obtrusive memories associated with either PTSD or addiction,” says Nicole Lauzon, a PhD candidate in the laboratory of Steven Laviolette. “If we are able to block the recall of those memories, then potentially we have a target for drugs to treat these disorders.”

Lauzon and Laviolette describe their findings, which appear in the journal Neuropharmacology, in the video below.

Source: Western University

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

How long will it be before this type of technology is used to modify the behaviour of say of a repeat or habitual criminal? Perhaps offering the choice of a very long sentence or memory blocking.

A total of 510,000 offences were committed in 2009 by criminals within a year of them completing a previous sentence, the Ministry of Justice figures showed. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8852705/Repeat-offenders-responsible-for-half-a-million-crimes.html

How long will it be before dangerous terrorists are subjected to these techniques?

How long will it be before controversial political descent is eradicated in this way.

Am I alone in recognising the dangerous nature of this science?


Would this process then absorb trauma in a way? (traumasorb)


The mind continues to have a higher know and the same memories will return suddenly at higher levels and with great momentum and cause enormous depression which will be uncontrollable and can lead people to commit suicide or cause heart attacks. This is because of the many different junctions and pathway the brain has and those causing the greatest stress become the most rigid and developed, and this essentially defines everyone's personality.

Dawar Saify

I've "quit" cigarettes repeatedly over many years with relapses often triggered by someone enjoying a smoke, or seeing someone light up; a stressful moment. I've thought for years how wonderful it would be to forget that I ever enjoyed smoking; forget that I wanted one. However, this process could be misused very easily. Isn't this akin to a frontal lobotomy?

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