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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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  • Bush/Cheney (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:30PM (#26880099)
    So I can forget the past eight years?
  • Eternal Sunshine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sexybomber ( 740588 ) <boccilino&gmail,com> on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:32PM (#26880139)

    Admittedly I didn't RTFA, but is this specific to just painful memories? I mean, I'd love to delete some memories I have, but I wouldn't want to run the risk of overwriting, say, my acceptance to law school, or memories of particularly good sex, for example. (Yes, strangely enough for a Slashdotter, I have had some.)

    How can the drug possibly discriminate between good and bad memories, or for that matter, any memories at all?

  • by tyroneking ( 258793 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:35PM (#26880183)

    "SIDE EFFECTS: Propranolol is generally well tolerated, and side effects are mild and transient. Rare side effects include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, depression, dreaming, memory loss, fever, impotence, lightheadedness, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, numbness, tingling, cold extremities, sore throat, and shortness of breath or wheezing. "

    Lot of patients who I've dealt with who took this drug suffered from impotence and had to be changed to alternative medication - wonder if in fact all that happened is that they forgot what do with it :)

    I vaguely remember being told by a gynae doc that Pethidine had some memory loss effects too

    The article linked above also goes on to say:
    "Kindt's team has already tested whether the propranolol effect lasts longer than three days--a key requirement for therapeutic use--but she declined to give the results because they have been submitted for publication."

    So continuous treatment might be required? Side effects of prop. can be worse than the memories maybe?

    Really, what's wrong with spending money on counselling instead?

    (IANAD - but IWAP)

  • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @08:56PM (#26880401)

    If everything that you think you are (your memories) gets gradually shifted and rewritten from day to day, who are we? Never minding the fact that it appears our conscious existence ends when we die, it's almost as if we die a tiny bit every day. While I think I remember who I was 10, 20 years ago, if these memories are faulty and always being revised, perhaps I am that person no longer.

            Some days, I look around and find it remarkable that I even exist. But, sadly, that appears to be a temporary state of being. Not only will I not exist in the future, it appears that I will not even be able to know I don't exist. And now, with these discoveries on memory, it appears that this gradual process of death happens even when we are still alive.

  • Such a drug could be enormously helpful for soldiers suffering from PTSD.

  • by Ninjaesque One ( 902204 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:09PM (#26880543) Journal
    Scary, but not young. []
  • Re:Eternal Sunshine (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:52PM (#26880995)

    The dampening is a temporary one while you are on the drug. Come off of it, and things return as they were before. This is going to be worthless unless they intend to keep the PTSD folks on it the rest of their lives.

    I've been on it.

  • by straponego ( 521991 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @09:52PM (#26880997)

    After all, if you can't remember being tortured, and there's no permanent physical damage, where's the harm?

    Also, with this or roofie-type drugs, I wouldn't be surprised if some people were willing to pay to be tortured, as long as they couldn't remember it.

    Lastly, quit referencing Eternal Sunshine. Yeah, it was okay. The original PKD story, We Can Remember it For You Wholesale, was pretty good too. Of course, they never gave credit, just like Idiocracy never credited Kornbluth's Marching Morons, despite being a verbatim copy. Pretty sure Harlan Ellison had a similar story, but I... can't remember right now.

    Oh look, the coffee just hit.

  • by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:30PM (#26881305) Homepage Journal

    The nature of most people on Slashdot appears to be to figure out a way that a certain product could be used badly

    The first thing I thought of when I first heard about the research on trauma-amnesia, despite all the articles talking about treating post traumatic stress, was "oh great, they'll be able to torture people and make them forget that it happened".

    It's a post-modern thing. All the wonders of the 50s that ended up biting us in the ass. We're cynics now... until they treat us with this stuff, so we can get back to loving the petrochemical industry, in blissful forgetfulness of all the cancers and deformed babies.

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @10:48PM (#26881543)

    So continuous treatment might be required? Side effects of prop. can be worse than the memories maybe?

    Really, what's wrong with spending money on counselling instead?

    Sometimes counseling doesn't or won't work. 10+ years is enough for me to say that another 10 years won't work. And those side effects that you listed? I'd consider them minor, others might not, but that's their decision to make.

  • Needless hype (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Monday February 16, 2009 @11:12PM (#26881833)

    This is a topic that has popped up on Slashdot several times in the last year alone... a beta-blocker somehow altering mind function to improve concentration, increase cognitive abilities, recreational "doping" of the brain, etc...

    It seems far more likely, that this isn't actually "removing" anything from the brain in terms of bad thoughts, but instead is making the brain better able to cope with a bad experience by improving it's ability to reason it's way through it using common sense and logic.

    Likewise, it could also be argued that people who can't normally focus on a simple task at will often end up going off on wild tangents at random instead, and will ultimately go insane trying to consciously resolve whatever scenario pops up in their mind at any given moment, only to shift the workload over to resolve a completely separate scenario brought on by attempting to resolve the previous one. Since this accomplish nothing but large amounts repetitive thinking on the same overall theme, while generating no useful information or solutions, it's not surprising that someone locked in such a state would be depressed and believe themselves to be "traumatized".

    I suppose a beta-blocker might help a case like this, but it seems like this is simply restating the obvious to make whichever drug company did this study seem more "profitable" through sensationalism.

  • Re:Eternal Sunshine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by muridae ( 966931 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @07:50AM (#26884713)
    The article suggested that the use of the drug for a single session of exposure therapy helped reduce the effects of anxiety on the next exposure when the drug was not in their system. It was a news article, not an academic paper, so probably not that accurate.

    Given how they guess that it works, I would say that therapy while taking the drug would be more effective. This appears to interfere with the emotional part of memories, but only those remembered when on the drug. Really, it sounds like what a few therapists had tried with LSD. If it works, it will probably get restricted or banned.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.