Scientists Find Gene to Wipe Memories
Find may offer path to fighting PTSD
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Sep 23, 2013 10:43 AM CDT
Scientists may have tracked down a gene that can erase memories.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Scientists at MIT are learning more about how old memories fade and new ones are created—suggesting we could someday have the power to wipe away traumatic experiences. The research is centered on a gene called Tet1, which scientists effectively turned off in a group of mice. Both the altered mice and some normal ones learned to fear a cage equipped with a shocking mechanism, Sky News reports. Then researchers began exposing the mice to the same cage, with the shock turned off.

Eventually, MIT News reports, the normal mice learned that the cage was no longer something to fear. But the mice with the inhibited gene continued to fear the now-harmless cage. The normal mice, it seemed, had their old memory extinguished by new learning. So if scientists can amplify the effects of Tet1, "then extinction learning is going to be much more active," says a researcher; in other words, memories could be more effectively replaced. That offers hope for sufferers of PTSD and others with trauma in their pasts, Sky News notes.

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Showing 3 of 37 comments
Sep 25, 2013 10:39 AM CDT
Once again, an overly sensational headline. This isn't about erasing memories, it's about weakening a superstitious connection between an environment and the likelihood of the repeat of a traumatic event. If someone experiences a traumatic event, they can associate things like locations, sounds, smells, etc. with the trauma to such an extent that they can suffer later when exposed to the location, hear certain sounds, smell certain smells, etc. The idea here it to allow them to learn that the location, sounds, and smells were only coincidentally associated with the trauma and need not be cause for anxiety and alarm. The memory of the initial event isn't destroyed (at least not based on what we're reading in this article).
Sep 24, 2013 2:16 PM CDT
What harm could come from the ability to erase memories?
Sep 23, 2013 10:20 PM CDT