Friday, April 03, 2009

Drug Free journey to a spotless mind

A new drug-free therapy could be the key to modifying or eliminating fearful memories. Shaun Sanders send in an interesting article from New Scientist. The hope is that a new and simple treatment might help patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Present therapy relies on drugs that block brain cells from making new proteins and this can erase fearful memories. The drugs have to be utilized during a critical phase in memory retention. Recent discoveries have found a quirky property of memories called reconsolidation. The process of jogging a memory – with an emotional or sensory jolt, for instance – seems to make it malleable for a few hours. The drugs used up to this point are highly toxic and it is felt that random wholesale erasure of memory may do more harm than good.

A far less invasive procedure is a therapy sometimes used to treat PTSD, called extinction which involves repeatedly delivering threatening cues – gun shots, for instance – in safe environments in hopes of drowning out fearful memory associations. Unfortunately this therapy only works up to a point.

Read more on this controvercial therapy here

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