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Banishing a fear-inducing memory might be a matter of the right timing, according to new research.
Marie Monfils, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has taken advantage of a key time when memories are ripe for change to substantially modify memories of fear into benign memories and to keep them that way.
The finding is a significant advance in learning how memory can be manipulated in rodents. It also could indicate a potential treatment for humans suffering from anxiety-related disorders.
Current treatments are not dependably long lasting and some of the treatments include drugs, many of which would be hard to administer locally in humans and have harmful side effects.
Monfils paper was published this week in Science Express, an online publication of Science. She conducted the study with colleagues at New York University where she was a post-doctoral researcher. She joined the University of Texas at Austin faculty in January.
The experiment began by inducing fear in rats by sounding a tone and then shocking them under the feet. Eventually, the rat would exhibit fear from just hearing the tone.
The standard treatment for getting rid of the fear response is to sound the tone repeatedly, without a shock. Eventually, the rat does not exhibit fear at the sound. The method is called extinction.
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