Now it’s possible to reduce trauma from bad memories

July 31st, 2008 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 31 (IANS) Researchers have identified a brain mechanism that switches off traumatic feelings and could help develop drugs to treat panic disorders. Scientists from Universities of California (UC) and Muenster in Germany found that a brain protein called neuropeptide S (NPS) is involved in erasing traumatic responses by working on a tiny group of neurons inside the amygdala where those memories are stored.

“The exciting part of this study is that we have discovered a completely new process that regulates the adverse responses to bad memories,” said Rainer Reinscheid, associate professor at UC.

“These findings can help the development of new drugs to treat conditions in which people are haunted by persistent fears, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or other panic disorders.”

In tests, scientists exposed mice to situations that caused adverse memories. The scientists saw that when NPS receptors in amygdala neurons are blocked, the traumatic responses to bad memories persisted longer. In turn, when scientists treated the mice with compounds activating these receptors, traumatic responses disappeared faster.

After a traumatic experience, environmental cues often become associated with the bad experience and re-exposure to the same environment can trigger fearful emotions or even panic attacks, according to Reinscheid.

Other research has shown that forgetting such negative experiences may require “new learning”, such as re-exposure to the place where the original experience occurred but this time without any harmful consequences.

The study appeared in the July 31 issue of Neuron.

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