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Sniffing Gas Could Prevent PTSD, Study

Update Date: Aug 28, 2014 10:18 PM EDT
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Gas could help prevent post-traumatic stress disorder and other memory-related conditions, according to a new study.

Researchers from McLean Hospital found that xenon gas, which is used in humans for anesthesia and diagnostic imaging, can help reduce the vividness of traumatic events.

"In our study, we found that xenon gas has the capability of reducing memories of traumatic events," Edward G. Meloni, PhD, assistant psychologist at McLean Hospital and an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School said in a news release. "It's an exciting breakthrough, as this has the potential to be a new treatment for individuals suffering from PTSD."

"We know from previous research that each time an emotional memory is recalled, the brain actually restores it as if it were a new memory. With this knowledge, we decided to see whether we could alter the process by introducing xenon gas immediately after a fear memory was reactivated," explained Meloni.

"We found that a single exposure to the gas, which is known to block NMDA receptors involved in memory formation in the brain, dramatically and persistently reduced fear responses for up to 2 weeks. It was as though the animals no longer remembered to be afraid of those cues, " he added.

"The fact that we were able to inhibit remembering of a traumatic memory with xenon is very promising because it is currently used in humans for other purposes, and thus it could be repurposed to treat PTSD," researcher Marc J. Kaufman, PhD, director of the McLean Hospital Translational Imaging Laboratory, said in a news release.

"From here we want to explore whether lower xenon doses or shorter exposure times would also block memory reconsolidation and the expression of fear. We'd also like to know if xenon is as effective at reducing traumatic memories from past events, so-called remote memories, versus the newly formed ones we tested in our study," he added.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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