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Can memories be lost and found?

4 August 2015

images of brain as scanned by MRI machine

University scientists believe memories are more robust than previously thought

A team of University scientists believe they have shown that memories are more robust than we thought and have identified the process in the brain, which could help rescue lost memories or bury bad memories, and pave the way for new drugs and treatment for people with memory problems.

Published in the journal Nature Communications a team of scientists from the University’s School of Biosciences and Neuroscience and Mental Health Research Institute found that reminders could reverse the amnesia caused by methods previously thought to produce total memory loss in rats.   

“Previous research in this area found that when you recall a memory it is sensitive to interference to other information and in some cases is completely wiped out. Our research challenges this view and we believe proves this not the case,” according to Dr Kerrie Thomas, who led the research.

“Our research found that despite using a technique in the brain thought to produce total amnesia we’ve been able to show that with strong reminders, these memories can be recovered.”

Whilst the results were found in rats, the team hope it can be translated into humans and new drugs and treatments could be developed for people suffering with memory disorders.

Dr Thomas added: “We are still a very long way off from helping people with memory problems.

“However, these animal models do accurately reflect what’s happening in humans and suggest that our autobiographical memories, our self-histories, are clouded by new memories rather than actually lost.

“This is an exciting prospect in terms of treating psychiatric illness associated with memory disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and psychosis.

“We can now devise new drugs or behavioural strategies that can treat these memory problems in the knowledge that we won’t overwrite our experiences,” she added.

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