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posted by martyb on Friday May 13 2016, @06:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the memories dept.

Imagine if we could enhance good memories for those suffering from dementia and wipe away bad memories for people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers have taken a step toward the possibility of tuning the strength of memory by manipulating one of the brain's natural mechanisms for signaling involved in memory, a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

Brain mechanisms underlying memory are not well understood, but most scientists believe that the region of the brain most involved in emotional memory is the amygdala. Acetylcholine is delivered to the amygdala by cholinergic neurons that reside in the base of the brain.

[...] For a new study published in the journal Neuron , researchers used a fear-based memory model in mice to test the underlying mechanism of memory because fear is a strong and emotionally charged experience. They used optogenetics, a newer research method using light to control cells in living tissue, to stimulate specific populations of cholinergic neurons during the experiments.

Two findings stand out. First, when they increased acetylcholine release in the amygdala during the formation of a traumatic memory, it greatly strengthened memory—making the memory last more than twice as long as normal. Then, when they decreased acetylcholine signaling in the amygdala during a traumatic experience, one that normally produces a fear response, they could actually wipe the memory out.

"This second finding was particularly surprising, as we essentially created fearless mice by manipulating acetylcholine circuits in the brain," Role says.

Sounds reminiscent of how they erased memories in the Philip K Dick film adaptation, Paycheck.

[Acetylcholine has been implicated in addiction to alcohol and nicotine; see, for example, Alcohol and nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (abstract) and full article (pdf) -Ed.]


Original Submission

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New Tool for Optogenetics: Photocleavable Proteins 3 comments [+]

Researchers have created a protein that breaks into two pieces when exposed to light:

Researchers at the University of Alberta have developed a new method of controlling biology at the cellular level using light. The tool -- called a photocleavable protein -- breaks into two pieces when exposed to light, allowing scientists to study and manipulate activity inside cells in new and different ways.

First, scientists use the photocleavable protein to link cellular proteins to inhibitors, preventing the cellular proteins from performing their usual function. This process is known as caging. "By shining light into the cell, we can cause the photocleavable protein to break, removing the inhibitor and uncaging the protein within the cell," said lead author Robert Campbell, professor in the Department of Chemistry. Once the protein is uncaged, it can start to perform its normal function inside the cell. The tool is relatively easy to use and widely applicable for other research that involves controlling processes inside a cell.

Optogenetic control with a photocleavable protein, PhoCl (DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.4222) (DX)

Related: With a Better Optogenetic Light Switch, Scientists Can Flip Neurons On and Off
Gene Therapy Human Trial Will Inject Virus Into the Retinas of the Legally Blind
Nerve Stimulation May Recover Memories in Alzheimer's Patients (Mice)
Scientists Test a Way to Erase Scary Memories
Mice Turned Violent by Photoactivation of Amygdala Neurons


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by TrumpetPower! on Friday May 13 2016, @06:37PM

    by TrumpetPower! (590) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Friday May 13 2016, @06:37PM (#345770) Homepage

    If you read the article, it becomes clear that it's much more a case of either the bad memories not forming in the first place, or the memories forming but in a non-traumatic manner.

    There's nothing in the article that suggests that this would, for example, be useful for PTSD treatment. There's nothing in there about erasing already-established memories. At absolute most this might be useful for preventing inducement of PTSD in the first place by doing something to soldiers just before, during, or immediately after battle -- and that's of course, assuming a safe and effective treatment regimen could be developed. But it'd be irrelevant to PTSD victims whose traumas were unpredictable.

    Cheers,

    b&

    --
    All but God can prove this sentence true.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:46PM (#345778)

      There's nothing in there about erasing already-established memories.

      My bartender has a solution for that. He calls it "another".

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @09:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @09:52PM (#345855)

      [...] doing something to soldiers just before, during, or immediately after battle [...]

      Ganja?

      https://www.medicaljane.com/2014/03/21/us-health-department-approves-clinical-trials-for-cannabis-post-traumatic-stress-ptsd/ [medicaljane.com]
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3739026/ [nih.gov]

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by PinkyGigglebrain on Friday May 13 2016, @10:11PM

      by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Friday May 13 2016, @10:11PM (#345864)

      Actually this might be useful in PTSD cases. There have been some recent studies that indicate that a memory is not "fixed", as in doesn't/can't change once formed. They found indications that every time we remember something instead of just being played back the memory gets rewritten each time, so something that changes how traumatic a memory is perceived as could prove useful in treating PTSD and other issues caused by a memory being highly intense. This would also explain how a persons recollection of something changes over time as each time they recall something the mind can change and edit what they remember.

      If this new research can eventually be used to reduce the intensity of recalled memories it could help a huge range of people, not just those with PTSD. Time will tell.

      I didn't think to bookmark the studies so I can't provide any citations. Sorry. You'll just have to trust my memory :P

      --
      "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 2) by Spook brat on Friday May 13 2016, @10:25PM

      by Spook brat (775) on Friday May 13 2016, @10:25PM (#345871)

      If you read the article, it becomes clear that it's much more a case of either the bad memories not forming in the first place, or the memories forming but in a non-traumatic manner.

      There is a way to get to therapy, even though the article doesn't mention it. Let me point you to research from a couple of years ago on drugs that weaken traumatic memories [sciencedaily.com].

      It turns out that recalling memories is a read-then-write-back process, and so drugs that supress memory formation or weaken the emotional load attached to memories as they form are useful as an addition to exposure therapy [va.gov]. The study I linked to above showed that (in the mice tested) administration of the right drug can improve the rate at which previously-trained flinch reactions are extinguished compared to exposure therapy alone.

      I haven't heard that the drugs have been approved yet for clinical use, I imagine it takes a while to go from rodent tests to routine use for human therapy. When I saw this article I thought it was a progress report on the previous drug; instead it appears to be a similar investigation into a different neurochemical pathway.

      --
      Travel the galaxy! Meet fascinating life forms... And kill them [schlockmercenary.com]
  • (Score: 2) by archfeld on Friday May 13 2016, @06:37PM

    by archfeld (4650) <treboreel@live.com> on Friday May 13 2016, @06:37PM (#345771) Journal

    Maybe they could lessen the emotional response to a degree that would not invoke PTSD but actually removing the memory would seem to remove the ability to learn from history, and thus avoid a similar situation in the future.

    --
    For the NSA : Explosives, guns, assassination, conspiracy, primers, detonators, initiators, main charge, nuclear charge
  • (Score: 2) by devlux on Friday May 13 2016, @06:39PM

    by devlux (6151) on Friday May 13 2016, @06:39PM (#345772)

    This is interesting.
    It could explain why smokers have better memories and focus after a smoke break.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by legont on Friday May 13 2016, @08:38PM

      by legont (4179) on Friday May 13 2016, @08:38PM (#345832)

      And why nicotine is prescribed to treat dementia.

      --
      "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:41PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:41PM (#345773)

    On the face of it, this sounds like a reasonable thing to do, no? But think further: it'll be used in no time to erase 'unhappy' thoughts in anyone with the right amount of money. Hopefully, those specimens, lacking the instructive unhappy memories, and thus unable to learn from their mistakes will self-select and destroy themselves. ("Hey, I don't remember jumping in front of a running vehicle is what crushed me bones, let's try doing that")
    It'll also lead to a lot more self-centered, self-important idiots a-la Trump remembering only how great they are/were/...: Look at how great *I* am... I know it's true because that's how I remember it...

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:51PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:51PM (#345784)

    If this is used to affect the memory of a crime victim then the defense will have a field day discrediting the victim as a witness.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @09:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @09:19PM (#345846)

      People's shitty and malleable memories already destroy many people's lives because juries think that someone remembering something means they experienced it. Far less weight ought to be given to eye-witness testimony than currently is, especially in cases where a line-up was used.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:55PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @06:55PM (#345787)

    Something something Doctor Who New New York Undercity Pharmacytown, episode Gridlock.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @07:54PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @07:54PM (#345810)

    Maybe they can help me forget all about System D.

    Maybe it was just a nightmare, and it's all over now?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday May 13 2016, @08:20PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday May 13 2016, @08:20PM (#345817) Journal

      System what?

      --
      [SIG] 03/03/2016: Soylent Upgrade v12 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14 2016, @12:14AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14 2016, @12:14AM (#345912)

        Ah I see its working already!!

  • (Score: 2) by CHK6 on Friday May 13 2016, @08:24PM

    by CHK6 (5974) on Friday May 13 2016, @08:24PM (#345818)

    On the fence about this as there are many people that would really benefit from removing traumatic memories. But the same technique can be used to remove the memories of those tortured for information. Just saying, slippery slip-n-slide.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @08:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @08:36PM (#345830)

      Classic line from "Full Metal Jacket": "How can you shoot women and children?" "It's easy; you just don't lead 'em as much!" I really question the military-industrial complex that would even admit to developing drugs like these.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @09:14PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @09:14PM (#345843)

    Or "He who controls the past; commands the future."

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @11:00PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @11:00PM (#345883)

      "..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon..."

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @11:33PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13 2016, @11:33PM (#345895)

    "They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves."