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

October 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: Opioid crisis strains foster system as kids pried from homes

Related Stories

Opioid crisis strains foster system as kids pried from homes

December 12, 2017
The case arrives with all the routine of a traffic citation: A baby boy, just 4 days old and exposed to heroin in his mother's womb, is shuddering through withdrawal in intensive care, his fate now here in a shabby courthouse ...

How a seahorse-shaped brain structure may help us recognize others

December 8, 2017
How do we recognize others? How do we know friend from foe, threat from reward? How does the brain compute the multitude of cues telling us that Susan is not Erica even though they look alike? The complexity of social interactions—human ...

MRI uncovers brain abnormalities in people with depression and anxiety

November 20, 2017
Researchers using MRI have discovered a common pattern of structural abnormalities in the brains of people with depression and social anxiety, according to a study presented being next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological ...

Who's in control when you're giving birth?

December 5, 2017
Kimberly Turbin wasn't expecting childbirth to be a pleasant experience, but she wasn't expecting it to be a nightmare either.

Research proves learning is a lifelong process

December 4, 2017
Change, often rapid and disorienting, is today's norm. Even things our grandparents took for granted – manual typewriters, telegrams, smelling salts, corsets – have disappeared into antique shops and museums. We change ...

Health care fallout: Fate of 8M low-income children in limbo

December 1, 2017
TC Bell knows what life is like without health insurance after growing up with a mother who cobbled together care from a public health clinic, emergency room visits and off-the-books visits to a doctor they knew.

Recommended for you

How defeating THOR could bring a hammer down on cancer

December 14, 2017
It turns out Thor, the Norse god of thunder and the Marvel superhero, has special powers when it comes to cancer too.

Researchers track muscle stem cell dynamics in response to injury and aging

December 14, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) describes the biology behind why muscle stem cells respond differently to aging or injury. The findings, published in Cell Stem Cell, ...

'Human chronobiome' study informs timing of drug delivery, precision medicine approaches

December 13, 2017
Symptoms and efficacy of medications—and indeed, many aspects of the human body itself—vary by time of day. Physicians tell patients to take their statins at bedtime because the related liver enzymes are more active during ...

Estrogen discovery could shed new light on fertility problems

December 12, 2017
Estrogen produced in the brain is necessary for ovulation in monkeys, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who have upended the traditional understanding of the hormonal cascade that leads to release ...

Time of day affects severity of autoimmune disease

December 12, 2017
Insights into how the body clock and time of day influence immune responses are revealed today in a study published in leading international journal Nature Communications. Understanding the effect of the interplay between ...

3-D printed microfibers could provide structure for artificially grown body parts

December 12, 2017
Much as a frame provides structural support for a house and the chassis provides strength and shape for a car, a team of Penn State engineers believe they have a way to create the structural framework for growing living tissue ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.