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Researchers alleviate PTSD in mice while they sleep

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October 19, 2012

Researchers at Stanford University have successfully alleviated PTSD in sleeping mice (Pho...

Researchers at Stanford University have successfully alleviated PTSD in sleeping mice (Photo: Melinda Fawver/Shutterstock)

Though often associated with exposure to war, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is a severe anxiety disorder which can arise following exposure to any event which has caused psychological trauma. Those who suffer from PTSD are often subjected to re-living the source of their despair through nightmares and flashbacks, and current treatment results in only occasional success. However, researchers at Stanford University appear to have alleviated PTSD in mice while the rodents slept, by using a new technique which may prove applicable for humans in the future.

At present, treatment for PTSD often involves the patient being required to repeatedly detail the experience which caused the trauma while under the care of a psychiatrist. With frequent exposure to the memory in a safe environment, some patients are thus able to limit the anguish that it causes, and reduce the power of loud noises and other triggers to cause flashbacks and panic attacks. This process can be distressing for a patient with PTSD, and sometimes does not translate well to the world outside the psychiatrists office, where relapses may occur.

As an alternative, Asya Rolls and her team, which includes Megha Makam, Professor Luis de Lecea, and Professor Craig Heller, propose that it may be possible to manipulate memories, and therefore, PTSD, while a patient sleeps. In the study, the scientists trained mice to fear a particular smell by repeatedly exposing the rodents to puffs of the chemical amyl acetate, alongside weak electric shocks, which were delivered to the feet of the mice. The mice involved in the study exhibited classic fear responses when smelling the chemical alone.

A selection of the mice were subsequently given conventional exposure therapy. This involved subjecting the rodents to the odor puffs without the electric shocks, over and over again. Following this, the mice seemed to recover for a time, but subsequently relapsed when placed in a new cage which was not associated with the therapy.

A second group of mice were then administered a drug to block protein production in the basolateral amygdala, which is an area of the brain associated with storing fearful memories. This was done just before the animals went to sleep. While they slept, the team then exposed the rodents to repeated odor puffs alone, and upon waking, the animals showed reduced fear responses to amyl acetate that carried over even into a new cage.

“The idea that you can actually erase memories during sleep, that you can manipulate them,” said Rolls. “It’s exciting.”

Despite the apparent success of the research thus far, it's important to note that the protein-blocking drug used on the mice would not be safe for use on humans. However, Rolls believes that existing anti-anxiety medications may produce similar effects. Either way, the work is an intriguing avenue of inquiry which joins recent research conducted at Uppsala University, in offering to increase our understanding of PTSD and related conditions.

Source: Nature via Gizmodo

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road.

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3 Comments

I don't know if this is either more scary or more hopeful.

Pikeman
20th October, 2012 @ 03:41 am PDT

You wont be erasing memories with this technique Rolls.

Condition the mice to fear amyl acetate odour by conditioning the mice with electric shocks and the mice react because the fear once embedded is reacted by the smell alone. The FBI psychologists have known about this for decades and its part of the FBI psychology training handbook. The case where a patrol man is sent to the FBI psychologist with conditioned pain to Mexican stimuli, Hello. Getting to the fear is the hardest part because it requires careful psycho analysis or hypnotherapy to uncover. In the FBI manual that is the case where the Psych finds the association and even though the officers wounds were long healed the Psych found the pain psychosomatic to things like Taco's etc.

So whats the name of the Protein. Would taking the protein help people learn not to forget to pick up the milk on the way home from work? Would blocking it make people take more risks? I think probably and that people treated with this type of technique would have to be monitored while taking the supplement. Otherwise I think this is great progress. The thing is I believe it can be done with out the protein. The proteins naturally produced in memory formation along neural networks are richer in adrenalin fueled experiences though they are also subject to degradation like all other memories which is why we have to have things like refresher courses and accreditation processes. From this I found that by creating a positive memory while inducing a pathway to the traumatic memory under the same level of adrenalin fueled excitement that the new memory become the dominant one. Its almost like chucking a surprise party. But I am actually surprised I still remember that!!!

Spriscilla the Queen of the Ocean
21st October, 2012 @ 07:42 pm PDT

PTSD in humans is how we test the effectiveness of the sulfur based amino acids produced when we have adequate sulfur in our diet, which we don't without organic sulfur a crystal food, added. In a nut shell. When a Vet from Iraq recounts a dream in which Dumbo was blue, he slept, he dreamed, no one died.

The biology of fear is anaerobic, oxygen in our cells can make us all Pollyannas, no one dies.

Got sulfur?

organicsulfur@sisna.com is the Cellular Matrix Study

Patrick McGean
22nd October, 2012 @ 10:29 am PDT
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