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Hope for PTSD Sufferers Through New Memory Research

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Researchers have found ways to alleviate stress disorders and block fearful memories.

Previous studies had shown that drugs are able to block these memories but the effects were not long lasting. The new findings are centered around the timeframe in which someone stores and restores the fearful memory.

An article in Reuters, published this morning states:

“The findings in people built on studies in rats that showed that reactivating a memory – by showing people objects that stimulate the fearful memory – opens up a specific time window in which the memory can be edited before it is stored again.

‘Before memories are stored, there is a period where they are susceptible to being disrupted,’ said Elizabeth Phelps of New York University, whose study appears in the journal Nature.”

The study describes the process as an opportunity for the brain to change, reconsolidate, and overwrite the previous memory 10 seconds after being introduced to something that sets off the fearful memory. The memory change can occur up to six hours after the reintroduction.

The findings cannot be immediately applied to people with disorders relevant to painful memories like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other anxiety or stress related illnesses that can be brought upon by painful memories.

Because the use of drugs to alleviate disorders such as PTSD do not show long term results and do not permanently block the memories from recurring, the new findings have great potential for helping those who suffer from these debilitating disorders.

PTSD affects thousands of Americans and is usually associated with the occurrence of a traumatic experience like war, natural disaster or abuse, to name a few. The symptoms usually involve an extreme and vivid ability to revisit the event through dreams, flashbacks or hallucinations.

When this occurs, the body can have emotional or physical reactions to the stress such as the avoidance of personal contact with others or actual physical pain. Many sufferers abuse drugs and alcohol to alleviate their pain and often times are treated for severe depression or addictive behavior.

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