It could be possible to wipe out memories selectively from the human brain. Researchers are now emboldened on this front, as they have been able to wipe out a single specific memory from brains of rats using a drug, leaving all other recollections intact.
If that experiment can be successfully replicated in the case of human beings, it could be possible to help relieve sufferers of the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Those who undergo traumatic experiences, say during a war or a riot, are diagnosed to be suffering from the PTSD.
Treatment of the PTSD would get a dramatic boost if doctors were equipped with ways of ridding the patients of the more painful of memories.
The brain secures memories by transferring them from short-term to long-term storage, through a process called reconsolidation. It has been shown before that this process can be interrupted by drugs.
Researchers at the Centre for Neural Science at New York University tried to find out whether it would be possible to stop the transfer of one specific memory without affecting others, and they seem to have succeeded.
Detailing their findings, the team has said in Nature Neuroscience that they trained rats to fear two different musical tones through the use of electric shocks.
Then they gave some of the rats a drug known to cause limited amnesia (which is not approved for people).
A day later, the rats treated that way seemed to have overcome the fear of one of the two tones while the untreated remained fearful of both the sounds.
Apparently the drug had wiped out the memory associated with one of the tones, researchers say. This discovery could help in the treatment of post-traumatic disorders, they say.