Scientists identify that memories can be lost and found

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A team of scientists believe they have shown that memories are more robust than we thought and have identified the process in the brain, which could help rescue lost memories or bury bad memories, and pave the way for new drugs and treatment for people with memory problems.

Published in the journal Nature Communications a team of scientists from Cardiff University found that reminders could reverse the amnesia caused by methods previously thought to produce total memory loss in rats. .

"Previous research in this area found that when you recall a memory it is sensitive to interference to other information and in some cases is completely wiped out.

"Our research challenges this view and we believe proves this not the case," according to Dr Kerrie Thomas, who led the research.

"Our research found that despite using a technique in the brain thought to produce total amnesia we've been able to show that with strong reminders, these memories can be recovered,"

Whilst the results were found in rats, the team hope it can be translated into humans and and treatments could be developed for people suffering with .

Dr Thomas added: "We are still a very long way off from helping people with .

"However, these animal models do accurately reflect what's happening in humans and suggest that our autobiographical memories, our self-histories, are clouded by new memories rather than actually lost. This is an exciting prospect in terms of treating psychiatric illness associated with memory disorders such as , schizophrenia and psychosis.

"We can now devise new drugs or behavioural strategies that can treat these problems in the knowledge that we won't overwrite our experiences," she added.


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Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by Cardiff University
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Aug 05, 2015
Memory is likely to be laid down in several different ways, more than the general classifications of semantic, episodic and procedural memory types.

For instance imagine that you have parked your car in a car park and later have to recall where you parked it.

You can retrace your steps back to when you left the car or from the last way point and move forward from there to the car parking event. These two are procedural memory encoding.

You can visualise the car, trying to recall the car in the car parking position. You can imagine the map of the car park, either looking down from above or flying through or recalled landmarks and try to imagine the car relative to the imagery or landmarks. I call this 'orientation memory', probably uses the same area as semantic memory.

Aug 05, 2015
Thus for the same event you can lay down the memory as an event in a chain of events or as a snapshot or as a location in space. One can also utilise the network nature of memory and try to recall a related event, imagery or location and move from there to the desired recollection.

Next time you forget where you parked your car you might try the other memory locations where such information is stored.

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