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Experimental Treatment for the Emotional Pain of PTSD and Anxiety


New Yorker Magazine published a fascinating article, PARTIAL RECALL: Can neuroscience help us rewrite our most traumatic memories?, which examines new efforts to treat anxiety, PTSD and addiction through an experimental process called “reconsolidation”.

brainReconsolidation aims to free people from the disabling impact of traumatic memories with drugs that act on neurons to alter or erase the painful emotions associated with those memories.   This process may sound like something from a science fiction movie, but the author explains the science, ethics and human impact of reconsolidation in a way that is easy to understand and speaks to the promise of this approach.

The article concludes with a touching story about the lead researcher’s father, who is a Holocaust survivor.  Dr. Daniella Schiller’s research on reconsolidation was shaped by her experience growing up with a father so traumatized by his memories of the past that he could not bring himself to speak about it.  Interestingly, it is not reconsolidation therapy that induces him to finally open up about the trauma he experienced, but what appears to be a one-time opportunity to make a statement for a documentary film.  This part of the story speaks to both the anguish and hope that family members share with a loved one in emotional distress.

At this stage, reconsolidation treatment sounds more theoretical than practical, but it could prove to be a powerful new tool in the treatment of anxiety, PTSD and addiction.

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