Scientists have developed a drug that appears to wipe away bad memories — an advance that could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological conditions tied to intrusive remembrances of negative experiences.
By analyzing the human genome, researchers from the University of Basel identified molecules and compounds that can affect and modify human memory. The scientists were also able to engineer a drug-induced reduction of aversive memories.
"The rapid development of innovative methods for genetic analysis has made this new and promising approach possible," said Andreas Papassotiropoulos, who helped conduct the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Dominique de Quervain said the research team plans to conduct follow-up studies on medications that may have the opposite effect: Halting memory loss.
"In a further step, we will try to identify and develop memory-enhancing drugs," said de Quervain.
The scientists hope to provide new input for the development of urgently needed new drugs for the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases.
For the study, researchers analyzed the genetic basis of "emotionally aversive memory" — a trait central to anxiety disorders such as PTSD — and identified 20 genes that are involved in the process of remembering negative events.
The scientists then examined a compound in a known antihistamine that interacts with one of the genes. They found that a single dose of the drug led to a significant reduction in memory recall of previously seen aversive pictures, but did not wipe away memories of neutral or positive pictures.
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