We talk a lot on this blog about the importance of remembering things, but sometimes there are things you don’t really want to remember. In January 2011, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that they could block the link in the brain that creates memories associated with traumatic events. For example, if a child is walking by a certain house and is scared by a ferociously barking dog in the yard, the child may be afraid to walk by that house again, even if the dog is gone. The memories of the fear are linked to the memories of the location. In laboratory trials, scientists discovered a way to remove this connection, and though the experiments being done on laboratory animals are far from complete, they hope to be able to help people who are suffering from memory-related issues such as PTSD.
On the other hand, there are things in your memory that you really want to remember, but can’t. In June 2011, researchers at the University of Southern California and Wake Forest University discovered that they were able to both block and restore memories in laboratory rats by controlling the electrical signals sent within the hippocampal regions of the rats’ brains. The hippocampus is where short-term memories are processed into long-term memories. The researchers trained the lab rats to perform a repetitive task (see here for more information on how repetition and memory are linked) until that task was firmly in the rats’ long-term memory storage. Then the scientists gave drugs to the rats to block the signals that allowed the rats’ brains to access those long-term memories. Next, the research team implanted an artificial device that duplicated the signals – and the long-term memories were restored.
Discoveries about the brain and our memories are made every year, as scientists explore the power of new machines and improved computer capabilities to gather and analyze information. Remember to check back with the Ultimate Memory blog for all the best in memory-related news and information!