New Study Shows Traumatic Memories Might Be Able To Be Erased
The war veteran who screams at the sound of a car backfiring. The victim of a robbery or an assault who is now afraid to go outside. All of these fear induced behaviors have one thing in common: All are the direct result of their own memories. Fortunately for individuals struggling with traumatic past experiences, new research indicates those memories could actually be extinguished from the mind.
A new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found a gene called Tet1 that can facilitate the process of memory extinction. In the study, mice were put in a cage that delivered an electric shock. Once they learned to fear that cage, they were then put in the same cage but not shocked. Mice with the normal Tet1 levels no longer feared the cage once new memories were formed without the shock. Mice with the Tet1 gene eliminated continued to fear the cage even when there was no shock delivered.
“We learned from this that the animals defective in the Tet1 gene are not capable of weakening the fear memory,” Le-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, told Discovery News. “For more than a half century it has been documented that gene expression and protein synthesis are essential for learning and forming new memories. In this study we speculated that the Tet1 gene regulates chemical modifications to DNA.”