Forget about it: Inducible and selective erasure of memories in mice

Oct 22, 2008

Targeted memory erasure is no longer limited to the realm of science fiction. A new study describes a method through which a selected set of memories can be rapidly and specifically erased from the mouse brain in a controlled and inducible manner. The research, published by Cell Press in the October 23 issue of the journal Neuron, may eventually lead to development of strategies amenable to the human brain that would permit selective erasure of traumatic memories or unwanted fear while leaving other memories intact.

Memory is generally separated into four different stages: acquisition, consolidation, storage, and retrieval. Previous research has identified specific molecules and events that appear to play a role in the various phases of the memory process. One such "memory molecule," calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), is an enzyme that has been linked to multiple aspects of learning and memory.

A research team led by Dr. Joe Z. Tsien, from the Brain and Behavior Discovery Institute at the Medical College of Georgia, developed a method for rapidly manipulating CaMKII activity in the brains of transgenic mice. "We recently developed a chemical genetic strategy that combines the molecular specificity of genetics with the high time-resolution of pharmacological inhibition. 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," explains Dr. Tsien, who is also renowned for his 1999 creation of Doogie, the smart transgenic mouse with enhanced learning and memory abilities.

Dr. Tsien and colleagues found that transient overexpression of ?CaMKII at the time of recall impaired retrieval of newly formed 1 hr novel object recognition memory and fear memories, as well as 1-month-old fear memories. The researchers went on to show that recall deficits linked to excessive ?CaMKII activity were not caused by a blockade of the recall process but instead seemed to be due to rapid erasure of the stored memories. Further, the erased memories were limited to those being retrieved while others remained intact.

The results demonstrate a successful genetic method for rapidly and specifically erasing specific memories, such as new and old fear memories, in a controlled and inducible manner without doing harm to the brain cells. "Given the fact that so many war veterans often suffer from reoccurring traumatic memory replays after returning home, our report of selective erasure of fear memories in an inducible and rapid way suggests the existence of molecular paradigm(s) under which traumatic memories can be erased or degraded while preserving other memories in the brain," says Dr. Tsien. However, he goes on to caution, "No one should expect to have a pill do the same in humans any time soon, we are barely at the foot of a very tall mountain."

Source: Cell Press

Explore further: Gene mutation discovered in blood disorder

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Meet Paro, a robot designed to help the elderly

Aug 06, 2014

The elderly woman cooed softly and stroked the soft white fur of the creature in her lap, while it raised its head, batted its dark eyes and made a friendly mewing sound in return.

Research sheds light on feed efficiency in pigs

Jul 11, 2014

Research conducted at Iowa State University is dispelling myths about the practice of breeding pigs to improve feed efficiency, a measurement of how well swine convert the feed they consume into mass.

Great Lakes welcome rising water levels

Jul 08, 2014

After years of parched shorelines, water levels in the Great Lakes have come rushing back. The crowds that flock to the Superior shoreline this summer are finding harbors deeper and beaches narrower than they've been in 15 ...

This is why some urban legends go viral

Jun 30, 2014

Urban legends get around, but we don't really understand why. We conducted a study to explain how misinformation spreads surprisingly fast and why people feel compelled to share it.

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 ...

Recommended for you

Developing 'tissue chip' to screen neurological toxins

31 minutes ago

A multidisciplinary team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Morgridge Institute for Research is creating a faster, more affordable way to screen for neural toxins, helping flag chemicals that ...

Gene mutation discovered in blood disorder

4 hours ago

An international team of scientists has identified a gene mutation that causes aplastic anemia, a serious blood disorder in which the bone marrow fails to produce normal amounts of blood cells. Studying a family in which ...

Airway muscle-on-a-chip mimics asthma

6 hours ago

The majority of drugs used to treat asthma today are the same ones that were used 50 years ago. New drugs are urgently needed to treat this chronic respiratory disease, which causes nearly 25 million people ...

Lost protein could prevent hardening of the arteries

10 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers have found that when the protein matrix metalloproteinase-14 (MMP-14) is reduced or lost, white blood cells, known as macrophages, become good and could prevent hardening of ...

User comments : 0