Addiction cycle: image via expertinmind.comWhile memory is essential to all life forms, some specific memories are not essential. Memories that are very painful and those that lead us to do things that are harmful to us, like drinking alcohol to excess or taking drugs... if those memories could be erased, we could stop some very destructive, life-disruptive diseases, like addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from taking hold of our lives. Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) may have found a way to remove those harmful memories without damaging other memories or the ability to form new ones.
No, the current research does not make use of lobotomy techniques. Rather, the researchers make use of an injection that inhibits actin polymerization, a physiological process that contributes to the plasticity of memory, among many other functions.
Addictions are cemented by memories... triggers that revive the desire for the addictive substance. Memories of being trouble-free, for example, or memories of friends laughing at your jokes, or even times when you were lonely and drinking helped to ease the pain. These memories may be pleasant or very unpleasant, as they are with those who suffer from PTSD, but the memories are with you and they trigger destructive behaviors.
The TSRI experiments were conducted with lab mice and rats who were introduced to methamphetamines by connecting the drugs with visual, tactile, and scent cues. Such cues would normally signal their brains to crave the methamphetamines. But after a few days of 'memory storage,' the rats were injected with the experimental inhibitor and showed no particular response when presented with the cues - even though the animals responded, as trained, to other cues, such as feeding cues.
What is unique here, as reported by TSRI researcher and assistant professor Courtney Miller, is that the memory-inhibiting injection effectively eliminated the memories associated with the addiction and did not eliminate other memories. This effect occurred without having to retrieve the specific memories prior to inhibiting them.
"That's valuable because substance abusers develop many, many
associations with the drug, so it may not be practical to ask them to
retrieve every single association in the clinic," Miller told Medical News Today. Another benefit is that "...the manipulation can occur at any time and, apparently, only erase the drug-associated memories."The complete study is reported in the online edition of Biological Psychiatry.
Sources: Medical News Today, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News