A review of memory reconsolidation, the recent experiment in which memory traces were attenuated and a caveat that recovery of the fear memory is typical in patients .
http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v8/n4/abs/nrn2090.htmlAbstract said:Memory reconsolidation has been argued to be a distinct process that serves to maintain, strengthen or modify memories. Specifically, the retrieval of a previously consolidated memory has been hypothesized to induce an additional activity-dependent labile period during which the memory can be modified. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of reconsolidation could provide crucial insights into the dynamic aspects of normal mnemonic function and psychiatric disorders that are characterized by exceptionally strong and salient emotional memories.
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6101/1550.abstractAbstract said:Memories become labile when recalled. In humans and rodents alike, reactivated fear memories can be attenuated by disrupting reconsolidation with extinction training. Using functional brain imaging, we found that, after a conditioned fear memory was formed, reactivation and reconsolidation left a memory trace in the basolateral amygdala that predicted subsequent fear expression and was tightly coupled to activity in the fear circuit of the brain. In contrast, reactivation followed by disrupted reconsolidation suppressed fear, abolished the memory trace, and attenuated fear-circuit connectivity. Thus, as previously demonstrated in rodents, fear memory suppression resulting from behavioral disruption of reconsolidation is amygdala-dependent also in humans, which supports an evolutionarily conserved memory-update mechanism.
Exposure-based treatments for clinical anxiety generally are very effective, but relapse is not uncommon. Likewise, laboratory studies have shown that conditioned fears are easy to extinguish, but they recover easily. This analogy is striking, and numerous fear extinction studies have been published that highlight the processes responsible for the extinction and return of acquired fears. This review examines and integrates the most important results from animal and human work. Overall, the results suggest that fear extinction is relatively easy to “learn” but difficult to “remember.” It follows that treatments will benefit from an enhanced focus on the long-term retrieval of fear extinction. We review the available studies on the prevention of return of fear and the prospects of weakening fear memories forever. We show that the behavioral principles outlined in learning theory provide a continuous inspiration for preclinical (neurobiological) and clinical research on the extinction and return of fear.