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The Source: Altering Memory To Help PTSD

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Memories are a crucial part of getting through the day, doing your job, and your identity. While memories can often feel like absolute truth, science doesn't agree. 

Creating and storing memories is not a fail-proof process and is not yet completely understood. According to the most recent theory, when something happens, different parts of the scenario are stored in different areas of the brain. As the memory is recalled, it is actually reconstructed and sometimes pieces are missing or put back in the wrong order.

From false eyewitness testimony to forgetting someone's name, there are countless real-world applications for our understanding of memory. As science progresses, real-world theories might meet science fiction like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to help those suffering from PTSD. NYU neuroscientist Joseph Ledoux is studying how emotional memories could be dampened--not deleted--to decrease the physical, stimulus response triggered during panic attacks and PTSD.

Being able to manage PTSD symptoms through this process has huge potential for good, but what ethics are involved? How can we tell if these theories would really work?


  • Joseph Ledoux, neuroscientist, director of the Ledoux Lab at New York University, and author of many books, including The Emotional Brain, Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are, and Anxious
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