The fundamental mechanisms by which the brain consolidates distant fear memories, or memories of traumatic events that occurred a few months to decades ago, have now been discovered by researchers.
consolidates distant memories of fear or traumatic experiences that took place a few months to decades ago.
The study, which was published in Nature Neuroscience, found that connections between memory neurons in the prefrontal cortex, or PFC, permanently store distant fear memories.
According to the study's leader, Jun-Hyeong Cho, an associate professor of molecular, cell, and systems biology at the University of California, "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."
Medical Daily reported that the researchers focused on the PFC, a region of the cerebral cortex previously linked to remote memory consolidation.
According to Cho, "we found a small group of nerve cells or neurons within the PFC, termed memory neurons, were active during the first traumatic event and were reactivated during the recall of remote fear memory."
"Suggesting the critical role of PFC memory neurons in the recall of remote fear memories," he added, "when we selectively inhibited these memory neurons in the PFC, it prevented the mice from recalling remote but not recent fear memory."
To eliminate the mice's remote fear memory, the researchers also repeatedly exposed the mice to the same fear-predictive context without the aversive stimulus. The fear response to the context was diminished as a result.
According to Cho, "interestingly, the extinction of remote fear memory weakened the prefrontal memory circuits that were previously strengthened to store remote fear memory."
In addition, Cho stated that a dysregulation of fear memory consolidation can result in PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which affects approximately 6% of the population at some point in their lives.
He stated, "Our study provides an important insight into developing therapeutic strategies to suppress chronic fear in PTSD patients, considering that PTSD patients suffer from fear memories formed in the distant past."
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Your mind creates sufficient power to control a light. There are about 100 billion tiny cells in your brain that are called neurons. It would take you over 3,000 years to count them all.