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. (Read more memory stories.)