18 Sep 2013

How old memories fade away

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Discovery of a gene essential for memory extinction could lead to new PTSD treatments.

If you got beat up by a bully on your walk home from school every day, you would probably become very afraid of the spot where you usually met him. However, if the bully moved out of town, you would gradually cease to fear that area.

Neuroscientists call this phenomenon “memory extinction”: Conditioned responses fade away as older memories are replaced with new experiences.

new study from MIT reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations, says Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

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