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Study Reveals How Traumatic Memories can Be Rewritten by Therapy

Neuroscientists discover how therapy can be used to rewrite traumatic memories, according to a report published on June 15, 2018.

This discovery was made by neuroscientists at Switzerland’s EPFL research institute. They were able to identify specific cluster of neurons present in the brain that are responsible for reprogramming long-term memories of traumatic incidences. This research uses neuroscience to show if only fear-based memories can be suppressed using therapy or if it can rewrite memories.

Researchers focused on examining the mechanism by which brain attenuates fear-based memories and whether this attenuation process occurs in the same place as the traumatic memory is recalled. Genetically modified mice that was engineered using a fluorescent protein was used for the study, which allowed the scientists to directly observe neuronal activity.

Long-term traumatic memories were implanted in the mice by exposing it to a fear-based exercise. The results showed that the specific cluster of neurons in the dentate gyrus were responsible for recalling those traumatic memories. Then, it was subjected to exposure therapy, which is considered as the most effective therapy in humans to help break traumatic associations associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other phobias. In this therapy, the patient is gently exposed to the trigger of their trauma. This has showed significant reduction in fear response of the patient. On activation of more number of specific cells, fear displayed by the mice was reduced.

Artificial presence of neurons showed poor fear reduction tendencies in the mice. However, when they were excited while in process of undergoing the exposure therapy, a significant fear reduction was identified. The conclusion of the research was that the specific cluster of neurons in the dentate gyrus is both responsible for the recall of traumatic memories and responsible for the attenuation of those memories.