Researchers find ways to treat post-traumatic stress disorder

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The researchers at the Western University have found a way of treating both post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction by selectively blocking t...

The researchers at the Western University have found a way of treating both post-traumatic stress disorder and drug addiction by selectively blocking the patient’s recall of memories.

The research study sheds light on how a mechanism in the brain’s pre-limbic cortex regulates the recall of both negative experiences and those associated with PTSD, as well as the positive memories that drug addicts associate with being high.

The Lauzon’s team also believed that they have found a way to suppress the spontaneous recall of both the pleasurable and traumatic memories without permanently changing the memories themselves. 

Laviolette, an associate professor in the Departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Psychiatry said, “These findings are very important in disorders like PTSD or drug addiction. One of the common problems associated with these disorders is the obtrusive recall of memories that are associated with the fearful, emotional experiences in PTSD patients. And people suffering with addiction are often exposed to environmental cues that remind them of the rewarding effects of the drug.”

Mr. Laviolette also said, “This can lead to drug relapse, one of the major problems with persistent addictions to drugs such as opiates. So what we’ve found is a common mechanism in the brain that can control recall of both aversive memories and memories associated with rewarding experience in the case of drug addiction.” 

The researchers used lab rats and found that by stimulating a sub-type of dopamine receptor in the brain known as the D1 receptor, they were able to completely block the recall of both traumatic and reward-related memories.

The researchers believe that if they can learn to block the recall of these memories in humans as well, then they may have a biochemical target for which to create new memory-blocking pharmaceuticals to treat PTSD and drug addiction.

The researchers believe that their research could potentially lead to less invasive ways to curb the recall of unwanted memories.  Researchers also said, “The interesting thing about our findings is that we were able to prevent the spontaneous recall of these memories, but the memories were still intact. We were not inducing any form of brain damage or actually affecting the integrity of the original memories.” 

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