Shock therapy can erase bad memories

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London: Zapping the brain with short bursts of electric current may help erase unpleasant memories, paving way for new treatments for mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction, researchers say.

Electroconvulsive (ECT) or electroshock therapy involves exposing the brain with electric current via electrode pads placed on a person's scalp.

The study, conducted by Marijn Kroes, at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and colleagues, found that exposing the brain to short bursts of ECT could be used to wipe out unpleasant memories.

The research is based on the idea that memories are not permanent and that the brain constantly takes them out of 'storage box' and reconsolidates them.

The study was conducted on 42 people who were prescribed ECT for major depression, 'Nature World News' reported.

Researchers showed all patients two slide-shows; one of a car accident and the other of physical assault.

They asked the patients to recall events from one of the slide-shows. Patients were then given ECT.

A day later, participants were asked to fill a questionnaire about the two events showed in the slide-shows.

The patients had a hazy memory of the event that they had recalled, while the unrecalled memory was still vivid.

"Our results provide evidence for reconsolidation of emotional episodic memories in humans," researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

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