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Total Recall: A cure to PTSD. A reality?

BrainHas a cure for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder been discovered? The illness that has plagued millions over time as being the root of a varied amount of deviant behavior could be on its way to extinction.

Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently published a study of a process of erasing memories, or more particularly bad memories. PTSD, often triggered by a memory, is a traumatic moment in someone’s life when he or she is exposed to a sexual assault or a threat of injury or death.  That memory has led to several criminal and immoral transgressions within our society. Specifically thousands of servicemen are diagnosed with PTSD every year. In many cases, when not treated properly, we’ve seen veterans homeless, violent and suicidal, all because of this illness. This illness that’s linked to memories is one of many that are extremely hard to cure. Maybe that’s all coming to an end.

In the MIT study, a gene called Tet1 is used to erase the bad memory, essentially by making the process of creating new memories more efficient. And when there’s not enough space for the two memories, the good new memory suppresses the fear memory. Le-Huei Tsai, director of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, told Discovery News of the study, in which the most significant findings deals with reducing and eliminating fear.

The experiment they used involved mice in a cage that would shock them, but once they learned to fear that cage, they were put in the same cage but not shocked. The mice that were injected with Tet1 were no longer afraid of the cage once the new memories were formed without the shock. Without the Tet1 gene, mice continued to fear the cage even if there was no shock delivered.

Mice were also used in a similar experiment. Earlier this summer, some of the same scientist at MIT were able to create false memories. Neuroscientist Steve Ramirez and his colleagues manipulated a specific memory of a mouse to make it believe something had happened when it hadn’t.  Researchers say that while it’s still a bit far off for human test, it is possible, and there’s no reason to believe that it wouldn’t happen the same way as it did with mice.

If any of that sounds familiar, it’s what was portrayed on the big screen in the science fiction film Total Recall. In fact in several science fiction films, shows and books we’ve seen the consciousness of people altered to forget things, remember things, act good, or bad, whatever the genius in the lab coat wanted them to do. Well with implanting new memories, or replacing bad ones with them, these genius will bring us much closer to a remedy that causes so much pain and distress to millions.

Rendering PTSD useless is one way this research could be applied to humans. But imagine your worst memory, replaced with pleasantries. Or any fear, anxiety or addiction gone, like you never knew it was there.

Not for nothin’ but while it may not be the way to extravagant vacations without leaving your chair, this is a huge scientific breakthrough nonetheless. The brain is the one part of the human body that’s the most difficult to manipulate. Technology is bringing us closer to seeing inside us to truly find out how and why we operate. The thing that sits inside our head is the ultimate final frontier.

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