Erasing Traumatic Memory

Possibly Future ??

“When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person’s life,” says Richard L. Huganir, Ph.D

Researchers from Howard Hughes Medical Institute and John Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that by removing a protein in the area of the brain that has the ability to recall fear in traumatized mice they are able to remove the traumatic memory.

The Story

Huganir along with his team chose to focus on the chemical process in the brain’s amygdala of the mice. The amygdala is a location in the brain that is associated with memories of emotional responses. In this study they were working on fear or the traumatic memories of the mice. They first fear conditioned the mice (giving them the traumatic memory) by using a loud tone. The amygdala would conduct more electricity as the loud tone would sound off. During this study they found that protein Calcium-Permeable AMPARS levels increased after the mice had been terrified. The high levels of the proteins peaked at 24 hours and stayed in the system for 48 hours. Removing the protein in mice depends on a chemical modification of the GluA1 protein. If the mice have normal GluA1 protein they would not recover the fear. In the future they may use a protein controlling medication to regulate and remove the protein Calcium-Permeable AMPARS to help erase human traumatic memories

They believe that with the combination of behavioral therapy using extinction therapy and controlling the increase in protein levels they would be able to erase traumatic memory forever. They have suggested using protein controlling medication to control and remove the protein Calcium-Permeable AMPARS.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

“This may sound like science fiction, the ability to selectively erase memories, but this may one day be applicable for the treatment of debilitating fearful memories in people, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome associated with war, rape or other traumatic events.”

My question?

The main question that comes to mind with this article is the ethical situations that are bound to surface. How far is too far, when it comes to erasing any memory, traumatic or not. Even if the government or medical personal stay to the strict guide lines that would have to be established for the use of memory eraser. What stops a criminal from using it to terrorize a victim or erase their memory of an event? What happens when a case is applied and the victim no longer has the memory of what happened? Stepping away from the ethical question and moving to a biological one. What happens to the body and mind long term after a person’s memory has been erased? We still know very little about the long term effects on the human mind of some medical drug treatments.