Research on Erasing and Blocking Memories Offer Hope to PTSD Sufferers

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • After living through a traumatic event, some people develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Traumatic events or situations can be living through combat, being sexually or physically abused, an accident, a natural disaster or witnessing a crime or accident. Many people with PTSD replay the memory over and over in their mind; often they feel as if they have no control over when the memory surfaces. These memories can bring the same intense feelings of fear and panic as the original event.  New medications and treatments being researched may help those with PTSD put the painful memories behind them.

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    Drug to Erase Memories

    Scientists are currently working on medication to erase the negative memories, and therefore, erase the negative emotions that go along with the memory. But while this sounds promising, there are some that feel it is unethical to eradicate someone’s memories, as it is our life experiences that make us who we are.  Sal Gentile, in an article on writes, “…the idea of erasing a memory seems inherently threatening to our personal identities. We think of our own memories, the events in our lives that have shaped our characters and inform our everyday decisions and wonder how we would be different without them.” [1]


    Others worry that more than the painful memories will be erased. Ed McKeon, a Vietnam veteran who still wakes up with nightmares about the war and suffers from PTSD, told WPBF, “ I wouldn’t take it, I’m afraid it would take some good memories away also.” [2]


    But for others, who find it difficult or impossible to function on a daily basis because of intrusive memories from past traumatic events, the possibility of erasing the memory brings hope.


    Blocking Memories

    A study published in the journal Neuropharmacology in December 2012 discusses an approach that wouldn’t erase memories but would block the memory from being recalled. Researchers discovered a way to prevent the recall of traumatic memories and reward-related memories (such as those which create problems in recovering from drug addiction). This information could be used to develop effective treatments for PTSD. Laviolette, one of the authors of the study states, “The interesting thing about our findings is that we were able to prevent the spontaneous recall of these memories, but the memories were still intact. We weren’t inducing any form of brain damage or actually affecting the integrity of the original memory.” [3]


    A different study focused on training people to forget the feelings associated with a memory, without erasing the actual memory. This study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: learning, Memory and Cognition, in June 2012. Lead researcher, Dr. Saima Noreen explained, “The novel findings show that individuals can be trained to not think about memories that have personal relevance and significance to them and provide the most direct evidence to date that we possess some kind of control over autobiographical memory.” [4]


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    Research in this area is still in the early stages but the different studies show promise for new treatments to help those with PTSD find ways to live with their memories  without having the fear and panic interfere with their lives.




    [4] “Bad Memories Can be Erased in Potential Breakthrough for Treating Depression and PTSD,” 2012, Christine Hsu,


    [1] “If We Erase Our Memories, Do We Erase Ourselves?” 2010, Nov. 24, Sal Gentile, Need to Know on


    [2] “Memory-Erasing Drug Tested for PTSD Patients,” 2012, Feb. 8, Terri Parker,


    [3] “Research Identifies a Way to Block Memories Associated with PTSD and Drug Addiction, 2012, Dec. 5, Staff Writer,

Published On: March 06, 2013