TECH

We Could Erase Unpleasant Memories Using A Genetic Switch

Could it really be that simple?

30/06/2016 12:35
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Imagine being able to remove a memory just by flicking a switch.

Researchers at the Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology believe they've found a way to do just that.

While diseases have shown that the body is already very capable of removing memories the researchers discovered that there is a way for us to do it deliberately. 

The team found that by switching off a particular gene they could remove the memory of associative learning in mice.

Associative learning is a simple learning process during which we assign an external factor to a regular action.

An example would be at school when the lunch bell rings. By hearing it over and over again and knowing that food will then follow our bodies naturally learn to become ready for digestion.

David Stuart via Getty Images

Using mice, the team trained them to move from one side of a room to another at the cue of a light.

Afterwards the team then deactivated the neuroplastin gene in half the mice.

What they discovered was that when it had been switched off the mice were no longer able to perform the task of moving from one side of the room to the other.

They had in effect, 'forgotten' how to perform that action.

Professor Detlef Balschun from the KU Leuven Laboratory for Biological Psychology: "We were amazed to find that deactivating one single gene is enough to erase associative memories formed before or during the learning trials."

See also:
This Simple Test Will Let You Know If You Have ‘Photographic’ Memory
How To Forget Painful Memories: Scientists Discover Way To ‘Flush Out’ Past Experiences
Scientists May Be Able To Restore Memories In Brains Damaged By Age

"Switching off the neuroplastin gene has an impact on the behaviour of the mice, because it interferes with the communication between their brain cells."

What the team discovered was that there was a clear reduction in the cellular mechanism that's used to store memories. Without it the mice had no way of recalling what they had learnt.

"This is still basic research," Balschun adds. "We still need further research to show whether neuroplastin also plays a role in other forms of learning."

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