Memory Hackers (PBS Nova).


A friend suggested this PBS Nova program, Memory Hackers, to me the other day and it is well worth a watch if you are interested in the brain. We are learning more and more every day that the brain is not static and we are able to learn new things and change our brain our whole lives through.

One of the most interesting parts of this program occurs about halfway through when they talk about studies using propranolol to extinguish fear responses in people. Ever wanted to cuddle a big fat hairy spider? Well, take some propranolol and you just might be able to fulfill that wish without needing to change your underwear.

Propranolol has also been studied in terms of extinguishing PTSD memories so this is clearly an exciting new avenue for research into neuroplasticity using a drug that's been around a long time and doesn't carry a ton of horrible side effects.

From Medscape,

The β-blocker propranolol may interrupt reconsolidation of traumatic memories through protein synthesis inhibition, presenting a promising treatment option for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 2 new studies suggests.
Presented here at the Canadian Psychiatric Association 60th Annual Conference, 1 study shows a single, 40-mg, fast-acting dose administered immediately after memory recall, with an additional 60-mg, extended-release dose administered about 2 hours, later seems to "fragment" the memory and induce a partial amnesia, reported Robin Menzies, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
"Our findings suggest that it is not amnesia," said Daniel Saumier, PhD, who also reported promising results with the drug. Dr. Saumier is a psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He works with Alain Brunet, PhD, who was one of the first to report results of this kind. "We are attenuating the emotional aspect of the memory without affecting the memory itself. We are making it less emotionally stressful."
Program Description
Memory is the glue that binds our mental lives. Without it, we’d be prisoners of the present, unable to use the lessons of the past to change our future. From our first kiss to where we put our keys, memory represents who we are and how we learn and navigate the world. But how does it work? Neuroscientists using cutting-edge techniques are exploring the precise molecular mechanisms of memory. By studying a range of individuals ranging—from an 11-year-old whiz-kid who remembers every detail of his life to a woman who had memories implanted—scientists have uncovered a provocative idea. For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays intact. But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories. The question is—are we ready?
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