Scary Memories Hide in a Specific Part of Our Brains

Scary Memories Hide in a Specific Part of Our Brains
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Scientists from the University of California, Riverside, have identified the location of distant fears in the brain, which could lead to improved therapies and treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Using mice, the researchers found that the prefrontal cortex (PFC), an area responsible for decision-making and cognitive behavior, contains memory neurons that form the physical structures (also known as engrams), for remote fear memories.

When these neurons were severed, the mice weren’t able to recall remote fears, but they still remembered more recent trauma. The researchers plan to investigate whether weakening the PFC memory circuits can suppress the recall of remote fear memories, which could inform treatments for people with PTSD. It is estimated that around 6% of the US population will experience some form of PTSD in their lives.

Jun-Hyeong Cho, a neuroscientist, explains:

It is the prefrontal memory circuits that are progressively strengthened after traumatic events and this strengthening plays a critical role in how fear memories mature to stabilized forms in the cerebral cortex for permanent storage, 

Using a similar mechanism, other non-fear remote memories could also be permanently stored in the PFC.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a region of the brain located in the frontal lobe, just behind the forehead. It is responsible for a variety of higher cognitive functions, including decision making, problem solving, planning, and impulse control. The PFC also plays a role in social behavior and emotional regulation.

The PFC is divided into several areas, each of which has its own specific functions. For example, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex is involved in evaluating risks and rewards, while the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is involved in working memory and cognitive flexibility.

Damage to the PFC can have serious consequences for cognitive function and behavior. For example, individuals with damage to the PFC may have difficulty with decision making, problem solving, and impulse control.

The new research appears in Nature Neuroscience.


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Cristian Antonescu

Even since he was a child, Cristian was staring curiously at the stars, wondering about the Universe and our place in it. Today he's seeing his dream come true by writing about the latest news in astronomy. Cristian is also glad to be covering health and other science topics, having significant experience in writing about such fields.

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