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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Science of the Week

If there was a “Yes/No” survey asking how many UC Davis students have a scary memory that still gives them the chills, chances are the majority of students would answer “Yes.”

But imagine if every time you thought about that childhood memory, you were paralyzed with fear.

According to a 2010 National Institute of Mental Health survey, nearly 7.7 million adults age 18 and older in America suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Research shows the disorder frequently occurs after violent personal assaults such as rape, mugging, domestic violence, terrorism, natural or human-caused disasters and accidents.

Roger Clem and Richard Huganir of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recently discovered a molecule in the brain that could help erase the fearful memories that cause PTSD in people.

In their studies of the memory system in mice, Clem and Huganir discovered a certain protein that is released in the amygdala directly preceding a fearful event. This protein, called AMPA, is responsible for strengthening the part of the brain that sustains the fear response. This memory system is the same in human brains.

But when researchers removed the receptors for the AMPA protein, they found that the fearful memory was completely erased, along with the PTSD response.

With the invention of a drug to eliminate these proteins, we could begin acting out our own rendition of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We could far lessen the impact of PTSD in our world.

– Cammie Rolle

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