Turning Bad Memories into Good Ones

  • Author: Melania Tesio
  • Published: 24 January 2014
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
  • Source / Publisher: Cell/Elsevier
thumbnail image: Turning Bad Memories into Good Ones

Physical or psychological traumas generate memories that evoke fear and anxiety. An approach known as exposure-based therapy is commonly used to extinguish these memories. It involves recalling the traumatic event, as this process opens a time period where the original memory can be replaced by new ones. This strategy, however, is effective only against short-term memories. In contrast, long-lasting traumatic memories remain very difficult to attenuate.

A solution to this problem comes from a study conducted by Li-Hueu Tsai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA, and co-workers. The researchers demonstrated that, when administered during exposure-based therapies, Cl-994 (pictured), a substituted benzamide derivative, induces the brain to replace long-term traumatic memories with new ones. This effect arises from the ability of Cl-994 to inhibit histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2), an enzyme that deacetylates DNA-binding proteins (histones). By inhibiting HDAC2, in fact, Cl-994 promoted the expression of genes involved in memory formation.

Cl-994 may, thus, represent a novel treatment to wipe out old traumas.

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