TECH
12/03/2015 10:56 GMT | Updated 12/03/2015 11:59 GMT

Erasing Bad Memories From Your Brain May Soon Be Possible, Thanks To Science

We've all had the desire to erase bad memories - the ones that keep coming back and we can't seem to get rid of them.

Soon that may actually become a possibility, as neuroscientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and ESPCI ParisTech have managed to convert neutral memories into good ones in the brains of sleeping mice.

And all they did was insert a couple of electrodes into the rodents' brains. Okay, it was a bit more complicated than that.

Electrodes were placed on the pleasure centre of the brain and in the hippocampus, which manages spatial memory.

The activity in the mouse's brain was monitored as it roamed through an exploration area, picking up each piece of neuron activity in the hippocampus as it created new, neutral memories about its surroundings.

The rodent's brain was then monitored during sleep as it consolidated the memories throughout the night.

They also placed an electrode on one particular neuron which was associated to a specific part of the exploration area and stimulated the pleasure centre of the brain while that memory was being processed. The intention was to make the mouse associate that specific area with a reward, such as food.

The scientists concluded the experiment had worked, because when the mice woke up, they ran straight to that area of the cage expecting a reward.

lab mouse

"The learning we induced during sleep was just to change the emotional value of the different locations of the environments," Dr. Karim Benchenane, a neuroscientist at CNRS and one of the study's authors, told The Huffington Post.

"Indeed, during waking hours, all the locations were neutral. What we made them learn during sleep is that a particular location is now associated to a reward."

So what about a human brain? If the effects can be replicated in our minds, scientists may be able to reassociate bad memories by stimulating the pleasure centre as they are processed.

"For humans, you would need a way to detect during sleep the periods during which the traumatic experiences are reactivated," Benchenane explained. "It is likely that it will be soon possible to do so with fMRI."

But it's going to be a while before this technique is used on humans, because of the risks associated with sticking electrodes in the human brain.

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