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Scientists Have Managed To Erase Memories In A Snail’s Brain



According to the result from a study on experiments in snails, it has been found out that there existed the possibility to delete memories that cause anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder also known as PTSD.

The discovery was released in the journal Current Biology and the research team came from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and McGill University.

Part of the way brains generate long-term memories is by enhancing the strength of links between neurons and keeping those over time. If those links could be weakened, to change specific memories might become possible.

In the above-mentioned research, scientists stimulated two sensory neurons that were linked by a single motor neuron in the marine snail Aplysia. The aim was to generate two memories, one was associative, (it was associated with a particular event), the other was non-associative, which focused on something that was indirectly connected to an event.

The example given by the scientists to show these two memories was that of walking down a dark lane and being robbed, and then coming across a post box afterwards . The memory of the robbing would be an associative memory, while seeing a post box later – which could remind you of the mugging – should be regarded as a non-associative memory.

In a statement, Samuel Schacher, a co-author on the paper from CUMC, said that from this example, their team discovered that the strength of the links of the associative and non-associative memories in the snail’s brain might be erased by blocking one of two different types of protein kinase M (PKM) molecules. These were accountable for keeping each connection, with the different forms selectively blocking either associative (PKM Apl III) or non-associative (PKM Apl I) memories. A memory might be also erased by blocking other molecules that interacted with PKM.

Although this was only performed in a snail, scientists believed that it would be helpful to human memory, because humankind had similar PKM proteins, which was an active part in the formation of human long-term memories.

Generally speaking, it is not always possible for you to simply delete things you don’t like from your brain, unlike you did when you finished reading a book or watching a movie. But as far as those who had memories that dramatically affected their daily life was concerned, this might offer some kind of solution.

As Jiangyuan Hu, another co-author on the study from CUMC said, it was potential for memory erasure to alleviate PTSD and anxiety disorders by taking away the non-associative memory that lead to the maladaptive physiological response. If scientists could isolate the exact molecules that maintain non-associative memory, they might be capable of developing drugs used for treatment of anxiety, while normal memory of past events of patients would not be affected.