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Wiping Out Fear Memory Now Possible

Update Date: Feb 23, 2017 07:10 AM EST

Fear memory can now be wiped out according to research. However, removing bad and painful memories has huge ethical implications.

The Canadian scientist found that targeting small number of fear neurons in the brain can erase painful and traumatic memories. This could also help people to overcome drug addiction in the future.

Dr. Sheena Josselyn and her team from University of Toronto were able to activate and erase fear memories in mice. Previous studies have revealed that collections of neurons called engrams fire in particular pattern when a memory is created. The brain has millions of neurons but only a few are necessary to form a fear memory.

By over-producing certain brain protein, scientists were able to flag up those neurons engaged in fear memory. And by genetically removing a target neuron, a specific memory could be effectively wiped out without affecting other memories.

However, according to the author herself, there is an ethical implication on the technique. Wiping out fear memory could prevent people from learning from their mistakes.

A research titled "Hippocampal Awake Replay In Fear Memory Retrieval" looked into the hippocampal place cells in the brain of the mice. These cells are activated anytime a human being or an animal moves. It also tags each location with specific neural code depending on the sensory perceptions of the stimuli which could be pleasure, pain, fear or reward.

Another research by Dr. Ai Koizumi of the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Kyoto and Center of Information and Neural Networks, Osaka titled "Reconditioning The Brain To Overcome Fear" revealed that it is possible to overwrite fear memory. The technique can be done with the use of artificial intelligence and brain scans. Koizumi and his team have found ways of instead exciting the brain that handles fear and risk, they can activate the reward pathways.

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