In Brief: A week to forget your fears?

Oct 29, 2010

Studies with mice have demonstrated that fearful or traumatic memories can be extinguished -- often temporarily, but sometimes permanently.

Now, researchers have identified a molecular basis for these two separate outcomes and they say their findings might eventually be applied to help people permanently overcome their fearful memories as well.

Roger Clem and Richard Huganir experimented with groups of both wild and mutant and found that the role of calcium-permeable glutamate receptors, known as AMPARs, was strengthened during fear conditioning, when the rodents were first learning to be afraid of a stimulus.

They noticed that this up-tick in AMPAR activity lasted for about a week after the initial fear conditioning, but that within this brief window of time, fearful memories could be permanently erased by behavioral experience.

Electrophysiological experiments with thin slices of the rodents’ brains confirmed that synaptic changes, acquired during fear conditioning, were actually reversed in mice that had undergone fear extinction training during this week-long window of opportunity.

Taken together, the researchers’ findings provide a specific molecular basis for permanent fear erasure and the relative instability of memories during that first week in the brain.

Explore further: Molecule enhances copper's lethal punch against microbes

More information: Publication: Science, "Calcium-Permeable AMPA Receptor Dynamics Mediate Fear Memory Erasure," by R.L. Clem; R.L. Huganir at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Baltimore, MD; R.L. Clem; R.L. Huganir at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Forget all about it: Traumatic memories can be erased

Nov 09, 2009

It is well known that fear memories are permanent. However, a recent paper in Science, evaluated by three Faculty Members for F1000, reports an extraordinary finding that supports the use of a drug to control recollections of tra ...

Protected fear memories

Sep 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In the latest issue of Science, researchers from the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Switzerland, show how a class of proteins surrounding nerve cells allows fear memories to persis ...

Researchers use computational models to study fear

Sep 30, 2009

The brain is a complex system made of billions of neurons and thousands of connections that relate to every human feeling, including one of the strongest emotions, fear. Most neurological fear studies have been rooted in ...

Recommended for you

Researchers uncover clues to flu's mechanisms

14 minutes ago

A flu virus acts like a Trojan horse as it attacks and infects host cells. Scientists at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have acquired a clearer view of the well-hidden mechanism involved.

User comments : 0