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A dose of anesthesia could take the edge off emotional memories, a new small study suggests.
People who were immediately sedated after remembering an emotional story had fuzzier memories of the emotional portions of the story 24 hours later, according to the study, published today (March 20) in the journal Science Advances.
Researchers - Memories - Techniques - Therapy - Brain
Researchers previously disrupted memories using other techniques, including electroconvulsive therapy, which involves passing an electrical current through the brain. Anesthesia is a far less invasive experience, and the new research raises hopes that sedation could help with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Memories were once thought to be static after they were set, but researchers now know that every time someone remembers an incident, that memory is vulnerable to alteration. In animal studies, and even some human studies of very basic fear responses, medications have been shown to alter emotional memories. Scientists in the Netherlands, for example, have found that after people learn to associate an image with a painful shock, the blood-pressure drug propranolol can break that association, reducing the fear response.
PTSD - Memories - Fabric - People - Lives
But PTSD is not so simple. Traumatic memories are woven into the fabric of people's lives, often associated with life-or-death situations or compounded trauma, said Bernard Schreurs, a neuroscientist at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, who wasn't involved with the new study. Someone may have years of terrifying memories surrounding an abusive relationship, for example. And a 2015 study that attempted to use propranolol to block memories in people with PTSD failed to show results.
The new research does not focus on PTSD but did use more-realistic memory scenarios than simple fear conditioning. The study included 50 people who were scheduled for routine colonoscopies or gastroscopies at the Hospital Clínico San Carlos in Madrid. These patients were already set to go under general anesthesia with the drug...
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