We've posted previously about new drugs on the horizon that could enable bad memories to be selectively "erased." Now, researchers at New York University have developed a non-invasive method to take the pain out of fearful memories. The scientists determined that fear memories can be reactivated and updated with "safe" information. Later, those memories can be recalled without a fear response. The team reported their results in the new issue of the journal Nature. From NYU:
The experiment was conducted over three days: the memory was formed in the first day, rewritten on the second day, and tested for fear on the third day. However, to examine how enduring this effect is, a portion of the participants was tested again about a year later. Even after this period of time, the fear memory did not return in those subjects who had extinction during the reconsolidation window. These results suggest that the old fear memory was changed from its original form and that this change persists over time…
"Our research suggests that during the lifetime of a memory there are windows of opportunity where it becomes susceptible to be permanently changed," said (post-doctoral fellow Daniela) Schiller. "By understanding the dynamics of memory we might, in the long run, open new avenues of treatment for disorders that involve abnormal emotional memories."
"NYU Researchers Develop Non-Invasive Technique to Rewrite Fear Memories"