A Mouse Experiment Suggests How We Might One Day Sleep Off Toxic Memories

Posted on November 26, 2014

Memories of our daily experience are formed, often during sleep, by inscribing - or "consolidating" - a record of what happened into neural tissue. Joy at the birth of a child or terror in response to a violent personal assault.

A bad memory, once fixed, may replay again and again, turning toxic and all-consuming. For the traumatized, the desire to forget becomes an impossible dream.

Reconsolidation allows for a do-over by drawing attention to the emotional and factual content of traumatic experience. In the safety of a therapist’s office, the patient lets demons return and then the goal is to reshape karma to form a new more benign memory. The details remain the same, but the power of the old terror to overwhelm and induce psychic paralysis begins to subside. The clinician would say that the memory has undergone a change in "valence" - from negative to neutral and detached.

The trick to undertaking successful reconsolidation requires revival of these memories without provoking panic and chaos that can only makes things worse. Talk therapies and psycho-pharm may not be enough. One new idea just starting to be explored is the toning down of memories while a patient is fast asleep

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

Source material from Scientific American

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