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Memories Can Be Selectively Erased in Mouse Model

Findings could point to targets that could be pharmaceutically affected in the human brain

FRIDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Specific memories, both old and new, may be selectively erased through the manipulation of the activity of a transgenic enzyme, according to research published in the Oct. 23 issue of Neuron.

Xiaohua Cao, of the East China Normal University in Shanghai, China, and colleagues discuss their work using a version of αCaMKII that can be selectively inhibited with a genetically sensitized small-molecule inhibitor called NM-PP1. The researchers focused on novel object recognition memory, contextual fear memory and cued fear memory. The results of memory tests in wild-type and transgenic mice showed that excessive CaMKII activity at the point of recall impaired the retrieval of newly formed memories.

The retrieval of not only new, but also old, memories appeared to be disrupted by the transient expression of the αCaMKII-F89G activity, the researchers report. Further experimentation with transgenic and control mice, using recall tests and injections of NM-PP1, suggests that retrieval problems in the transgenic mice are due to recall-induced erasure of the memories being retrieved, rather than difficulty accessing memories.

Although "we do not think that our chemical genetic approach in its current form can be applied directly as a clinical strategy since it would require the development of some sorts of αCaMKII-specific activators," for patients such as returning war veterans with reoccurring traumatic memories, "it might be useful to further identify the downstream drugable targets through which overexpressed αCaMKII produces such an effect," the authors write.

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