Around 39 psychiatric patients underwent electroconvulsive therapy in which they were given a muscle relaxant and an anesthetic while an electrical current was passed to part of their brains. The patients were previously told two emotionally distressing stories while the story memories were 'cued' a week later by showing the first slide partially covered.
The researchers then gave ECT to one group of patients and when they were tested about the recollection of the stories the next day, the researchers found that those who had received ECT struggled to correctly recollect the story while those who had not been given ECT were able to relate it without any problems. The study has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience
"We found that a single ECT application in unipolar-depressed patients following memory reactivation disrupted reactivated, but not non-reactivated, memory for an emotional episode. Our data provide evidence for disruption of reactivated emotional episodic memories by invasive interference with normal neural activity", lead researcher Dr Marijin Kroes said.