WASHINGTON: US researchers have said they are able to selectively erase memories from mice in a laboratory, raising hopes human memory afflictions like post-traumatic stress syndrome can one day be cured.
“Targeted memory erasure is no longer limited to the realm of science fiction,” the research team headed by Joe Tsien, from the Brain and Behavior Discovery Institute at the Medical College of Georgia, said in Thursday’s issue of Cell Press magazine. The new technique, which the team stress is at a very early stage, could be applied one day to the human brain to erase traumatic memories or deep-set fears, and leave all other memories unaffected.
Memory is generally separated into four different stages: acquisition, consolidation, storage, and retrieval. Earlier research identified specific molecules that appear to play a role in the various phases of the memory process.
But Tsien said his team found a way to quickly manipulate the activity of the “memory molecule,” the protein CaMKII (calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II) that plays a key role in brain cell communication, and so is linked to many aspects of memory.
Researchers developed a “chemical genetic strategy,” which made it possible to manipulate the protein in transgenic mice. “Using this technique, we examined the manipulation of transgenic CaMKII activity on the retrieval of short-term and long-term fear memories and novel object recognition memory” in transgenic mice, Tsien said.
The team figured out they could manipulate the protein in the mice’s brain as the animal was stimulated, and observe the brain’s ability to recall memory of the stimulation. Through the protein manipulation, researchers then found a way to not just block the mice’s memory of the stimulation, but erase them without impacting the brain’s ability to recall other memories