Brain

Scientists discover a new technique to delete bad memories

A new technique may soon help people get rid of negative memories and turn them into good ones. Findings of the new study were published in Nature.

Scientists at MIT used genetically engineered mice with light-sensitive protein to activate different neurons in the animals by targeting them with a laser using a technique called optogenetics.

The animals were exposed to stimuli that activate the neurons responsible for forming memory in the region of the brain called hippocampus, and a group of neurons in amygdala that form the emotions associated with the memories. Half of the mice were exposed to positive stimuli, and the other half to negative ones.
The researchers gave a shock using negative stimuli to the mice previously exposed to the positive stimuli, and activated the neurons associated with the positive memory.

Brain
They found that it was possible to make the bad memory less negative and the good memory less positive by activating certain neurons.

The study showed that neurons in the hippocampus could be changed to re-programme memories, however the neurons in the amygdala remained unchanged.

“Emotion is intimately associated with memories of past events and episodes, and yet the ‘valence’ – the emotional value of the memories – is malleable,” explained Susumu Tonegawa, senior author of the study.

The researchers claim it is likely that the results can be translated to humans. By that time, they say, the findings might help develop new techniques for treating disorders such as depression or PTSD.

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