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The biology of induced memory

"Imagine the possible benefit for people traumatized by haunting memories of terror or tragedy. The day may come when the cure is recalling the trauma, and then erasing it with a shot", wondered Dallas Morning News reporter Tom Siegfried (Aug. 28, 2000) commenting on Dr. Karim Nader's discovery that a fear memory induced in a rat and reactivated after 1 -12 days of storage in the outer part of the brain could be eradicated with a shot of anisomycin, a protein-synthesis inhibitor.

Two years after the publication of "Fear memories require protein synthesis in the amygdala for reconsolidation after retrieval" in the August 14, 2000 issue of Nature, Dr. Nader and his colleague from New York University , neuroscientist Joseph E. Ledoux, published in the October 24, 2002, issue of Neuron, an article which shows that the same reconsolidation process goes on in another part of the brain which mediates conscious memories, the hippocampus.

"Whether we speak of rats or human beings, we store memories in analogous areas of the brain," say Dr. Nader, now a professor in the McGill Department of Psychology. " Our first findings were based on earlier work identifying the amygdala as a site at which neural changes that underlies auditory fear learning occur. It is a kind of learning that can happen unconsciously. We found evidence that contradicts entrenched psychological and neurobiological models of memory. Current theories posit that memories are processed by our brain initially as sensitive, labile short-term memories (stm) and then get stored as long-term memories (ltm). the transition from stm to ltm is mediated by the production of proteins. Once stored, the memory trace is posited to be "fixed" or "consolidated" in the brain. We found that stored fear experiences in the amygdala, when retrieved, return to a state that again requires protein synthesis in order to be restored or reconsolidated. Thus, if you reactivate the fear memory and block the produ
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Contact: Karim Nader
karim.nader@mcgill.ca
514-398-3511
McGill University
10-Dec-2002


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