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Pill Could Help You Forget Bad Memories

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Discovery: Bad date last night? Take this pill and forget all about it.

In a bid to stem the harmful effects of fear triggered by haunting memories, psychologists have come up with a concoction that prevents the brain from reliving the bad experiences.

The findings may have implications for understanding and treating people suffering emotional disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, said University of Amsterdam psychologist Merel Kindt, the lead author of a paper in this week's issue of Nature Neuroscience.

Kindt and colleagues devised a test to see if the cycle of fear could be eased by interrupting the brain's ability to recreate a memory of a traumatic event.

Sixty volunteers were shown pictures of spiders and given a mild electrical shock to create bad memories. The next day, they saw the pictures again but half were given the drug propranolol, a beta-blocker commonly used to treat heart disease. The other half took a placebo pill.

The participants returned a third day and were shown the pictures again. The researchers found that people given propranolol had a much lower emotional response -- measured by a startle reflex -- to the images.

"The procedure did really eliminate a simple fear response, which is a promising basis for future treatments," Kindt wrote in an e-mail to Discovery News. "This was not possible before."

Psychologists typically try to treat memory-triggered stress disorders by teaching patents to modify their response to fear, but the technique is ineffective for many people.

"This method focuses on erasing the fear response," Kindt said.

Additional studies are planned to see if the results are long-lasting.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Christina @ Cutest Kid Ever February 19, 2009, 5:48 PM

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, here I come! For super anxious people like me, a little help getting over the most distressing memories would be welcomed.

Jo February 19, 2009, 5:53 PM

I don’t think I would take this pill cause how would it tell the difference between your good memories and your bad memories…and what if a good memory came of a bad one…does it disappear too?

ashley February 20, 2009, 7:50 AM

I was thinking about that movie too!! I agree with Jo. I wouldn’t want to forget the good stuff. But then again I have never had anything so traumatic happen that I would need to forget. I just think this is too weird.

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