Thursday, February 19, 2009

Erasing Fearful and Unpleasant Memories

People who survived the horrible memories of war may develop severe stress and anxiety, which can lead to other serious medical conditions. Most of them suffer from emotional and psychological disorders, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

However, there are other incidents that may prove traumatic to an individual, such as rape, torture, being kidnapped or held hostage, child abuse, vehicular accidents, plane crashes, and even natural disasters, like floods or earthquakes.

PTSD is experienced when a terrifying ordeal involving physical harm or the threat of physical harm happens to a person. It could be that the person may have been the one who was harmed, or he may have witnessed a harmful event that happened to loved ones or strangers.

Doctors usually prescribe antidepressant drugs to help ease the ever-present aching wounds of war, or to induce sleep to those who are suffering from insomnia, as well as to relieve their daily stress and anxiety.
While various psychotherapy programs are being studied and developed to bring modest relief from stress and anxiety, a new study from the University of Amsterdam reported that a commonly used blood pressure medication may also help erase or subdue fearful memories.

According to the researchers, they have discovered that a beta-blocker drug prevents the return of unpleasant memories. This finding will benefit a lot of patients with PTSD and other emotional disorders.
Scientists said that propranolol, which is a beta-blocker, targets nerve receptors in the part of the brain called the amygdala while it is processing emotional information. The amygdala helps you learn and respond to fear, create memories, and perceive how you and other's feel. Some think that the use of beta-blockers during reactivation of fearful thoughts may cause the breakdown of the unpleasant memory in the amygdala while leaving other memories untouched.
However, medical ethics experts warn that the possibility of eliminating unpleasant memories is not without risk. Daniel Sokol, a lecturer in medical ethics at St. George's University of London said that personal identity, which is linked to memories, may change.

“It may perhaps be beneficial in some cases, but before eradicating memories, we must reflect on the knock-on effects that this will have on individuals, society, and our sense of humanity,” said Sokol.

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