New Study May Help Make Bad Memories a Thing of the Past

Countless hours and an enormous amount of money have been spent on helping those who have experienced traumatic situations get past their emotional scars. What if, in the not so distant future, scientists found a way to help those who have experienced such trauma forget their awful memories?

According to a new Belgium study, that might be a reality in just a matter of a few years.

The study, which involved the collaboration of researchers from the Universidad Andres Bellow, Ghent University, and the Catholic University of Leuven, devised a test to help understand how astrocyte cells in the brain impact the storage of memory.

Astrocytes are the most common type of cell found in the brain, but it was originally believed that they simply aided neurons in doing their job. Scientists now realize that they may have underestimated just how vital astrocytes might be in the retrieval of memory.

Researchers used lab mice that were exposed to a traumatic experience to test a chemical solution they developed. Shortly after experiencing trauma, the test group of mice was injected with the solution. While the control group of mice, who received no injection, exhibited signs of strain and anxiety, the test group showed no physical or mental reaction.

The purpose of the solution was to block astrocyte connections in the brain from being formed. Researchers hypothesized that by blocking certain channels of the brain, memories involving a fearful experience would be forgotten. In essence, the goal of the solution was to keep short-term memories from being stored long-term.

The results of the study could lead to a group of prescriptions that inhibit distressing experiences from becoming permanently stored in the brain. A breakthrough such as this may provide great relief for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Other implications of the study might be the development of treatment to help those plagued by psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.