A pill to erase painful memories in offing

Last Updated: Nov 23, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Scientists in the US believe they may be able to help people erase painful memories with the help of a pill.

They have discovered that proteins can be removed from the brain`s `fear centre` to wipe out traumatic memories.

The US research has parallels to the plot of the science fiction film "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind", which starred Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, reports the Daily Mail.

In the 2004 film, a couple`s past is wiped off in a fictional procedure called ‘targeted memory erasure`.

For the US study, scientists at Johns Hopkins University used rats to try to focus on the part of the brain that copes with fear.

They discovered a "window of vulnerability" when unique receptor proteins are created in the brain as painful memories are made, according to a Hopkins statement. Because the proteins are unstable, they could be removed with drugs to eliminate the memory forever.

"When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person`s life," said researcher Richard Huganir of Johns Hopkins University.

He said his findings "raise the possibility of manipulating those mechanisms with drugs to enhance behavioural therapy for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder".

Although the scientists used mice in the tests, they believe the results would be the same in humans.

IANS