Discovery of a gene essential for memory extinction could lead to new PTSD treatments

Posted on September 21, 2013

Enhancing the activity of the gene Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations,

If you got beat up by a bully on your walk home from school every day, you would probably become very afraid of the spot where you usually met him. However, if the bully moved out of town, you would gradually cease to fear that area.

Neuroscientists call this phenomenon “memory extinction”: Conditioned responses fade away as older memories are replaced with new experiences.

A new study from MIT reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations, says Li-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

The Tet1 gene appears to control a small group of other genes necessary for memory extinction. “If there is a way to significantly boost the expression of these genes, then extinction learning is going to be much more active,” says Tsai, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT.

The researchers found that Tet1 exerts its effects on memory by altering the levels of DNA methylation, a modification that controls access to genes. High methylation levels block the promoter regions of genes and prevent them from being turned on, while lower levels allow them to be expressed.

“By demonstrating some of the ways that regulatory genes are methylated in response to Tet1 knockout and behavioral experience, the authors have taken an important step in identifying potential pharmacological treatment targets for disorders such as PTSD and addiction,” says Matthew Lattal, an associate professor of behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University, who was not part of the research team.


Category(s):Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Source material from MIT


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