Cambridge University researchers have discovered a protein in the brains of mice that can serve as a biological marker for memories. With this discovery, it may be possible to determine which memories can be erased in humans and why certain memories get stuck.
The researchers conditioned laboratory mice by simultaneously shocking them and emitting a clicking sound. The mice naturally associated the sound with the shock, thus developing a fear response. The mice associated the noise with discomfort because they remembered being shocked.
Later, the researchers injected the mice with a beta blocker called propranolol and were surprised by the results because nothing happened. The mice were expected to experience memory loss and forget the association between the clicking sound and the shock. However, this did not happen.
According to a university press release, scientists at Cambridge University have demonstrated that memories can be modified in animals treated with propranolol. It was shown that if this protein is disrupted, memories can become modifiable.
The researchers have now learned why propranolol doesn’t always work. However, they do not yet know why the protein inhibits its effectiveness, why it is sometimes present, and why it is absent at other times.
The study may provide a solution for trauma and memory-related disorders
The researchers emphasize that this discovery of a biological marker may help individuals unconsciously forget traumas and assist in the treatment of certain disorders.
Amy Milton, the leader of the research team, stated the following regarding the matter: “We do not yet know if this discovery directly contributes to memory impairment or if it is a byproduct of a deeper reaction. However, it is a key to unlocking one of the first doors in understanding the biochemistry of memory.”