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Biotech Science

Drug Deletes Fearful Memories 247

Al writes "Technology Review has an article about a common drug that seems to 'delete' painful memories related to a fearful experience. Experiments carried out by neuro-scientists at Emory University show that propranolol, a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure, can suppress the emotional part of a fearful memory. The results, published in Nature Neuroscience, suggest a new way to treat anxiety disorders. In recent years, scientists have discovered that the simple act of remembering a past experience requires that the memory be consolidated once again. And both animal research and some human studies have shown that during re consolidation, long-term memories — once thought to be fairly stable — can be more easily meddled with."
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Drug Deletes Fearful Memories

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:33PM (#26880149)

    The article states that the experiments where carried out at the University of Amsterdam, not Emory University.

  • Re:PropranoLOL (Score:5, Informative)

    by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:24PM (#26880729)
    Nope, propofol (2,6-diisopropyl phenol) likely works by increasing the response to inhibitory neurotransmitters, and acts as an anesthetic. Propanolol is a non-selective beta-blocker, which blocks the beta-adrenergic receptors (receptors for epinephrine and norepinephrine). As the summary notes, the most common pharmaceutical use for this is to lower blood pressure, which it does by preventing the release of renin. Its effects on memory are completely coincidental to those on blood pressure.

    In the brain, a part of the brainstem known as the locus ceruleus is the site of norepinephrine synthesis, and it is activated by stress to send norepinephrine to the amygdalae, the brain's "emotional memory association" centers. It is in the amygdalae that memories are associated with emotions, with the ultimate result being that it is easier to form long term memories of experiences that associated with strong emotions. In blocking norepinephrine transmission to the amygdala, beta-blockers most likely are acting to uncouple the connection between a stressor and its associated memory, such that the brain no longer considers it important enough to keep in long term memory.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:06PM (#26881095)

    Wrong. No one just "get[s] over it." Every individual, based on their prior experiences will take a given situation and either adapt to it to the best of their abilities, perhaps by adding it to their experience or by "moving on" and ignoring it even though the effect is still with them at a subconscious level. And the really poorly off people break; they have something happen to them so traumatic that it shatters their emotions. While they are the most obvious "victims" of an event, if they can't find help with dealing with the problem, either through talking it out with someone, taking a step back from life and doing some reflecting on their life, or finding some other way to overcome their emotional burden, they will forever go through life not only with the scars from the event, but the inability to cope with other problems, regardless of their magnitude.

    You can't tamper with the learning process of gained experience because nature doesn't breed it out of the gene pool anymore. Modern medicine has, in my opinion, overcome the acceptable boundaries of emotional science without considering the long-term health effects of just throwing pills at people.

    Learning to adapt and overcome is far too important to let us forget. No matter the cost.

  • by margaret ( 79092 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:23PM (#26881233)

    I'm sick of these stupid "propranolol deletes memory" headlines. There was even an episode of boston legal or law & order perpetuating this nonsense a year or so ago. The drug does not "delete" a specific memory. The only people who can that are on star trek. The drug simply reduces the emotional significance of the memory, uncoupling it from the autonomic/fear response associated with it. A HUGE difference.

  • Finally! (Score:3, Informative)

    by el3mentary ( 1349033 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:33PM (#26881335)

    I can win at the game!

  • Re:PropranoLOL (Score:5, Informative)

    by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:52PM (#26881589)
    Oh, most definitely- it's still an off-label use of the drug in the US, but people are certainly taking beta-blockers to treat performance anxiety, as well as to prevent nervous fine motor tics. At the most recent Summer Olympics, one of the medalists in pistol shooting had his medals taken away after testing positive for propranolol.

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