Brain Process Allows Memories to be Lost and Found

A team of University scientists believe they have shown that memories are more robust than we thought and have identified the process in the brain, which could help rescue lost memories or bury bad memories, and pave the way for new drugs and treatment for people with memory problems.

Published in the journal Nature Communications a team of scientists from the University’s School of Biosciences and Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute found that reminders could reverse the amnesia caused by methods previously thought to produce total memory loss in rats.

“Previous research in this area found that when you recall a memory it is sensitive to interference to other information and in some cases is completely wiped out. Our research challenges this view and we believe proves this not the case,” according to Dr. Kerrie Thomas, who led the research.

“Our research found that despite using a technique in the brain thought to produce total amnesia we’ve been able to show that with strong reminders, these memories can be recovered.”

Whilst the results were found in rats, the team hope it can be translated into humans and new drugs and treatments could be developed for people suffering with memory disorders.

Dr. Thomas added: “We are still a very long way off from helping people with memory problems.

“However, these animal models do accurately reflect what’s happening in humans and suggest that our autobiographical memories, our self-histories, are clouded by new memories rather than actually lost.

This shows slice of a rat's hippocampus.
The study could help pave the way for new drugs and treatment for people with memory problems. Image is for illustrative purposes only.

“This is an exciting prospect in terms of treating psychiatric illness associated with memory disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis.

“We can now devise new drugs or behavioural strategies that can treat these memory problems in the knowledge that we won’t overwrite our experiences,” she added.

[divider]About this memory research[/divider]

Funding: The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Source: Dr. Kerrie Thomas – Cardiff University
Image Credit: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Full open access research for “Rescue of long-term memory after reconsolidation blockade” by Simon Trent, Philip Barnes, Jeremy Hall and Kerrie L. Thomas in Nature Communications. Published online August 4 2015 doi:10.1038/ncomms8897


Abstract

Rescue of long-term memory after reconsolidation blockade

Memory reconsolidation is considered to be the process whereby stored memories become labile on recall, allowing updating. Blocking the restabilization of a memory during reconsolidation is held to result in a permanent amnesia. The targeted knockdown of either Zif268 or Arc levels in the brain, and inhibition of protein synthesis, after a brief recall results in a non-recoverable retrograde amnesia, known as reconsolidation blockade. These experimental manipulations are seen as key proof for the existence of reconsolidation. However, here we demonstrate that despite disrupting the molecular correlates of reconsolidation in the hippocampus, rodents are still able to recover contextual memories. Our results challenge the view that reconsolidation is a separate memory process and instead suggest that the molecular events activated initially at recall act to constrain premature extinction.

“Rescue of long-term memory after reconsolidation blockade” by Simon Trent, Philip Barnes, Jeremy Hall and Kerrie L. Thomas in Nature Communications. Published online August 4 2015 doi:10.1038/ncomms8897

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