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Drug helps put bad memories to rest

Experiment in sleeping mice may suggest strategy for treating PTSD

11:11am, October 18, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — Fearful associations can be knocked back during sleep, research in mice shows. After receiving an injection of a drug, a nasty link between a scent and a painful foot shock faded as the mice slumbered.

The results are preliminary but may ultimately show how to get around a roadblock in treatments for people with post-traumatic stress disorder: Traumatic associations can be weakened in a doctor’s office, but those memories can flood back when triggered by specific events in everyday life. The new finding suggests that the hazy world of sleep, lacking any particular real-world context, might be a better place to diminish such memories.

Neuroscientist Asya Rolls of Stanford University and colleagues taught mice that when they smelled jasmine, a foot shock was not far behind. A day later, as the mice slept, the researchers wafted the smell over the animals, strengthening and solidifying the scary link between jasmine and pain. A day

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