A Spotless Mind

April 29, 2011

Rheanna Sand


Is there anything you really, really want to forget? Habs vs. Bruins Game 7? That awful one night stand? That scene in 127 Hours? Yeah, I thought so.

Well guess what - someday, science may be able to rid you of those traumatic memories! I know, this sounds eerily like the plot of a 2004 movie starring Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey - and, well, it kind of is! If it were called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless 20,000 Neurons Comprising the Central Nervous System of the Marine Snail Aplysia, that is.

The big news here is that Dr. David Glanzman from UCLA, along with his colleagues, discovered a biochemical way to essentially erase long-term memories in Aplysia. It would take many years to translate this to humans, but if perfected, the treatment could greatly benefit patients dealing with PTSD, severe anxiety and depression, and other mental illness based on past trauma.

So how the heck did they erase a memory? It helps to understand how a memory can be stored: when snails encounter a predator, for example, the signal in the circuit for predator detection becomes heightened and stays that way. This group found that when they blocked a protein called Protein Kinase M or PKM, they could convert the signal to what it was before the snail was attacked. Amazingly, they could make this change at just one synapse, or connection, meaning the prospect of eliminating individual memories doesn't seem so far-fetched.

Now, where can I get my hands on some of this PKM blocker? The Royal Wedding is today! *cringe*



DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4744-10.2011



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