Scientists Discover Gene Needed for ‘Memory Extinction’
What if you were able to erase all of your painful memories by simply taking a pill? While this might sound like something out of a sci-fi film, a recent study conducted by a group of researchers at MIT suggests that it may be possible in the future.
The researchers say that they’ve identified a gene known as Tet1 that appears to be important in the process of “memory extinction.” Memory extinction is the natural process of older memories being overridden by newer experiences. In this process, conditioned responses to stimuli can change: what once elicited a fearful response doesn’t always need to if the danger has ceased.
In the study, researchers compared normal mice to mice without the Tet1 gene. The researchers conditioned all of the mice to fear a particular cage where they received a mild shock. Once the memory was formed, the researchers then put the mice in the cage but did not shock them. After a while, mice with the Tet1 gene lost their fear of the cage as new memories replaced the old ones. However, mice lacking the Tet1 gene remained fearful.
The researchers are now looking for ways to increase Tet1 levels artificially and studying whether this could enhance memory extinction. If so, it could be useful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For patients with PTSD, it is often very difficult to override a traumatic memory and change the conditioned response. Researchers think that enhancing the activity of the gene might benefit people with PTSD by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations.
How old memories fade away – MIT News
Gene that triggers ‘memory extinction’ discovered – Medical News Today