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the forgetting pill


scientists and psychologists haven’t really gotten along in the sense that most things can be coddled out of you, but now they have something to agree on. A chemical insertion that will change the face of mental illness forever. it’s as if the problem never existed? right.

Forget ME not.


There was a bet made that said karim nader couldn’t make the rats forget the pain associated with the fear of shock. Well he won that bottle of tequila. Professor Nader is interested in understanding what are the neurobiological processes involved in acquiring and storing motional memories, with specific emphasis on fear. One of the main thrusts of the lab is the study of memory reconsolidation

karim

the fateful protein inhibitor that he used to win that bottle is what opened the door for memory reconsolodization. Karim Nader is a professor at William Dawson Scholar, a Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and a CIHR new investigator. He is a revolutionary researcher in the art of behavioral neuroscience.

NADER


He began with the simplest question he could think of. While it was clear that new proteins were needed for the making of memories—proteins are cellular bricks and mortar, the basis of any new biological construction—were additional proteins made when those memories were recalled? Nader hypothesized that they were, and he realized that he could test his notion by temporarily blocking protein synthesis in a brain and looking to see if that altered recall. “This is the kind of question you ask when you don’t know how else to approach the subject,” Nader says. “But I had to do something, so why not this?”

He taught several dozen rats to associate a loud noise with a mild but painful electric shock. It terrified them—whenever the sound played, the rats froze in fear, anticipating the shock.

discovery After reinforcing this memory for several weeks, Nader hit the rats with the noise once again, but this time he then injected their brains with a chemical that inhibited protein synthesis. Then he played the sound again. “I couldn’t believe what happened,” Nader says. “The fear memory was gone. The rats had forgotten everything.” The absence of fear persisted even after the injection wore off.


with PKM

*

without PKM * protein inhibitor injected during fear stimulus


PICk recall

Pick a memory. It has to be something deeply implanted in the brain, a long-term memory that has undergone a process called consolidation—a restructuring of neural connections.

Recall requires neural connections by protein synthesis. To date, researchers have identified one such protein, called PKMzeta. Before trying to erase the targeted memory, researchers would ensure that it was ensconced by having the patient write down an account of the event or retell it aloud several times


target forget.

Everything else is fine. If the drug is selective enough and the memory precise enough, everything else in the brain should be unaffected and remain as correct—or incorrect—as ever.

Nuke the memory. To delete the memory, researchers would administer a drug that blocks PKMzeta and then ask the patient to recall the event again. Because the protein required to reconsolidate the memory will be absent, the memory will cease to exist. Neuroscientists think they’ll be able to target the specific memory by using drugs that bind selectively to receptors found only in the correct area of the brain.


Memory

Every memory begins as a changed set of connections among cells in the brain. If you happen to remember this moment—the content of this sentence—it’s because a network of neurons has been altered, woven more tightly together within a vast electrical fabric. This linkage is literal: For a memory to exist, these scattered cells must become more sensitive to the activity of the others, so that if one cell fires, the rest of the circuit lights up as well. Scientists refer to this process as long-term potentiation, and it involves an intricate cascade of gene activations and protein synthesis that makes it easier for these neurons to pass along their electrical excitement.

Sometimes this requires the addition of new receptors at the dendritic end of a neuron, or an increase in the release of the chemical neurotransmitters that nerve cells use to communicate. Neurons will actually sprout new ion channels along their length, allowing them to generate more voltage. Collectively this creation of long-term potentiation is called the consolidation phase, when the circuit of cells representing a memory is first linked together. Regardless of the molecular details, it’s clear that even minor memories require major work. The past has to be wired into your hardware.


This may seem like a miracle drug but what it is really demonstrating is removing the fear that was triggered by the memory. Thus it can be deemed a psychological cure. Something that hasn’t been introduced to the field ever. Some benefits will include PTSD patients who can recal tramatic events from their past, and even though the memory still exists the crippling fear associated with it is no longer there. Reconsolidation constantly alters our recollections, as we rehearse nostalgias and suppress pain. We repeat stories until they’re stale, rewrite history in favor of the winners, and tamp down our sorrows with whiskey.

“Once people realize how memory actually works, a lot of these beliefs that memory shouldn’t be changed will seem a little ridiculous,” Nader says. “Anything can change memory. This technology isn’t new. It’s just a better version of an existing biological process.”


never


billion dollars

to mood disorders in united states it’s not that it elimates the pain of war of the loss of a loved one, in theory it simply erases that pain associated with the recollection of the memory. Thus “curing� an emotion that would have otherwise eaten away at the individual for an extensive period of time.

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people with ptsd in united states

People with PTSD have among the highest rates of healthcare service use. People with PTSD present with a range of symptoms, the cause of which may be overlooked or undiagnosed as having resulted from past trauma.


Being able to control memory doesn’t simply give us admin access to our brains. It gives us the power to shape nearly every aspect of our lives. There’s something terrifying about this. Long ago, humans accepted the uncontrollable nature of memory; we can’t choose what to remember or forget. But now it appears that we’ll soon gain the ability to alter our sense of the past.


The problem with eliminating pain, of course, is that pain is often educational. We learn from our regrets and mistakes; wisdom is not free. If our past becomes a playlist—a collection of tracks we can edit with ease—then how will we resist the temptation to erase the unpleasant ones? Even more troubling, it’s easy to imagine a world where people don’t get to decide the fate of their own memories.

“My worst nightmare is that some evil dictator gets ahold of this,” Sacktor says. “There are all sorts of dystopian things one could do with these drugs.” While tyrants have often rewritten history books, modern science might one day allow them to rewrite us, wiping away genocides and atrocities with a cocktail of pills.


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and our researcher gathered here at Los Alamos


The Forgetting Pill