NYU Researchers Develop Non-Invasive Technique to Rewrite Fear Memories


Researchers at New York University have developed a non-invasive technique to block the return of fear memories in humans. The technique, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature, may change how we view the storage processes of memory and could lead to new ways to treat anxiety disorders.

Researchers at New York University have developed a non-invasive technique to block the return of fear memories in humans. The technique, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature, may change how we view the storage processes of memory and could lead to new ways to treat anxiety disorders.

Researchers have long sought to understand fear memories. These are expressed as the body’s emotional reaction to objects or events previously linked to potential danger. It is known that, over time, such emotional responses could dissipate in a process called extinction in which the same event is experienced in a safe environment. After extinction, the fear memory is merely suppressed, not erased, and therefore these memories could resurface under certain conditions, such as unrelated stress. In some cases, the re-emergence of the emotional memory is maladaptive, leading to anxiety disorders. Because of this, researchers have sought to find ways to prevent the return of fear.

While researchers have traditionally seen long-term memory as fixed and resistant, it is now becoming clear that memory is, in fact, dynamic and flexible. As a result, the act of remembering makes the memory vulnerable until it is stored again-a process called reconsolidation. During this instability period, new information could be incorporated into the old memory. This was the phase during which the NYU researchers sought to employ a technique to block the return of fear memories.

The NYU researchers showed that reactivating fear memories in humans allows them to be updated with non-fearful information, a finding that was previously demonstrated in rodents. As a result, fear responses no longer return.

To achieve this, the researchers created a fear memo 500

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