Forget all about it: Traumatic memories can be erased

November 09, 2009

It is well known that fear memories are permanent. However, a recent paper in Science, evaluated by three Faculty Members for F1000, reports an extraordinary finding that supports the use of a drug to control recollections of traumatic incidents.

The researchers demonstrated that, in mice, proteins known as extracellular matrix chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans form 'neural nets' in the brain that protect against the erasure of memory. They also reported that, when these mice were given a drug called chondroitinase ABC, fear memories were more likely to disappear than for those mice in the control group.

This finding has important therapeutic implications for sufferers of anxiety disorders, as it could allow doctors to erase the memories of patients who have had extremely traumatic experiences, such as survivors of war.

In his review for F1000 Medicine, David P. Wolfer said, "The identification of cellular mechanisms that ... control the stability of fear memories is extremely important for the development of new and better therapies for anxiety disorders".

The article was also evaluated by Gregory Quirk, an anxiety disorders expert, who said, "Once we know how perineuronal nets are regulated, it may be possible to ... allow fears in adults to be erased by extinction-based therapies."
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Notes to Editors

1. Gregory Quirk is Faculty Member for F1000 Medicine, Psychiatry Section, and Professor at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, Puerto Rico http://f1000medicine.com/member/4879013012518953

2. David P. Wolfer is a Faculty Member for F1000 Biology, Neuroscience Section, and Associate Professor of Anatomy at the Institute of Anatomy, University of Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland http://f1000biology.com/about/biography/1525123721374249

3. The full text of this article is available free for 90 days at http://www.f1000medicine.com/article/9l8fph1qfd7kctz/id/1165039

4. Faculty of 1000 Medicine, http://f1000medicine.com, is a unique online service that helps you stay informed of high impact articles and access the opinions of global leaders in medicine. Our distinguished international faculty select and evaluate key articles across medicine, providing a rapidly updated, authoritative guide to the medical literature that matters.

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