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Erasing Fearful Memories In Mice Could Provide Insight In Managing PTSD [VIDEO]

Update Date: Apr 13, 2017 09:16 AM EDT

A study on mice was successful in erasing fearful memories, giving researchers some clues on how memories laden with emotions are created. The findings could provide help in tackling and managing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the future.

PTSD is caused by events that bring overwhelming feelings of having no hope and control of a situation, leaving people unable to shake off the experience, so they have intense memories of the event. They are sometimes coupled with flashbacks and nightmares. The investigators wanted to see whether erasing fearful memories could be done which could give clues on treating or managing PTSD.

The investigators knew that the key areas of the brain responsible for creating memories are the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala is a structure in the brain involved in emotions such as fear and pleasure. For this reason, it plays a major role in our emotional behavior and motivation, especially with respect to survival. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, is associated with cognitive functions such as planning, reasoning and memories.

Through a technique called optogenetics, the researchers were able to track the interaction between the neurons in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. In the experiment, the mice were exposed to events that created fear, and it showed a significant interplay between the neurons of the two areas of the brain. The mice' behavior later demonstrated fear upon hearing a sound associated with the event.

The mice were exposed to a technique using light pulses to diminish the communication between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. It led to a display of bolder behavior, no longer fearing the sound heard during the frightening event. It could be assumed that it intervened in the fearful memories, the EurekAlert reported.

Individuals living with PTSD often exhibit symptoms such as depression, guilt and shame among others. They are more likely to find it hard to trust and they harbor feelings of betrayal. While it may take professional help to deal with it, there are self-help tips patients can make use of to improve the condition.

Exercising and outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking are known ways to lift the mood. Healthy dietary habits, staying away from alcohol and drugs and getting the right amount of sleep are good for the body.

It is also recommended to spend time with a trusted person and be part of a PTSD support group, according to Help Guide.

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