Subjects: R and D
Scientists at SUNY Downstate have demonstrated that injecting a compound known as ZIP into the brains of mice causes them to instantly forget distasteful memories, raising hope the stuff could someday be used to treat humans with PTSD or drug addiction.
Todd Sacktor and colleagues made the discovery after deducing that a substance known as PKMzeta was involved in murine memory.
Sacktor’s group found for example, that when neurons in the hippocampus and neocortex of mice were activated by a certain memory, they released PKMzeta to recruit nearby neurons. This apparently helped the brain construct visual, auditory and olfactory components of that particular experience.
These PKMzeta molecules subsequently remained at their new locations, effectively hard-wiring the memory for easy recall at a later time.
Sacktor’s group then leveraged work by André Fenton, a colleague at SUNY Downstate, who had devised a technique for generating powerful spatial location memories in mice such as the position in a chamber where they could expect to receive an electric shock.
Once Fenton’s mice learned the avoidance behavior, they didn’t forget, at least until Sacktor nailed ‘em with a short, sharp, shot of ZIP. Almost instantly thereafter, the mice behaved as if they had completely forgotten the lesson.
“If this molecule is as important as it appears to be, you can see the implications,” Sacktor told the New York Times. “For trauma. For addiction, which is a learned behavior. Ultimately for improving memory and learning.”
But Thomas Carew, a neuroscientist at UC Irvine was circumspect. “There is not going to be one, single memory molecule, the system is not that simple,” he said. “There are going to be many molecules involved, in different kinds of memories, all along the process of learning, storage and retrieval.”