Depression, anxiety and PTSD disorder – these conditions have one thing in common. They are built upon negative memories, sometimes even highly traumatic events called emotional associations or Valences. These Valences are directly responsible for reminiscence, but in the negative form. Social anxieties and other disorders grow as the negative Valences increase, both in intensity and occurrence.
Mental issues pose serious problems with functioning in society and dealing with social interactions. These conditions are medicated with different types of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, adjusted and altered to successfully damper the negative feelings. Although there has been quite a bit of success associated with medicating mental disorders, there is always a continuing effort to find a better, more permanent solution. There may be hope.
Since memories are associated with mental issues, it seems that these memories hold a strong sway over the condition. These memories, fueled by emotional associations, control how the patient feels and how he deals with reality, simply by recalling an event from the past. For those who do not suffer from nervous issues and depression, memories and their emotional ties can float in and out of the brain without negative impact. Whether this is judged by the individual or the amount of memories, this is unknown. The point is, emotional association is the culprit and there is possibly a way to change this.
Where are memories located?
At the very moment a memory is stored, it is put away in one of two places, the Hippocampus and the Amygdala. The Hippocampus is responsible for making the memory, filing it away and organizing its contents. The Amygdala, on the other hand, is key to analyzing the memory and understanding what it all means, thus, sorting memories into negative or positive associations. Both these areas are connected from the dentate gyrus of the Hippocampus, by a circuit. It seems that the Valences located in the dentate gyrus, or the dorsal part of the Hippocampus, can be changed by a stimulus, but the cells of the Amygdala that are associated with memory will never change.
Reversing the experiences
Science has discovered a possible way to reverse memory associations when dealing with negative emotions or, in other words, erase negative memories. The most basic tests have been conducted on live animals. Rats, for instance, are being used to test this theory, by way of stimulus. Using Optogenetics, scientists stimulate neurons for both positive and negative rewards. The first step is to reward the rats to prefer one side of a box to the other. If the rats have a short history of preferring one area of a box, the scientist would change the stimulus to make the animal prefer the opposite side. This stimulation was either shock, for a negative affect or placing the male rats with females to generate a sense of a good reward. These tests were often reversed multiple times to ensure that the conditioning was indeed, that simple, and it was.
What this means for us
What this may actually mean for us, is a chance to reverse memory emotion association. With the correct stimulus, we may be able to change the way we feel about past events. This, in turn, may help reverse the effects of depression and other mentally debilitating illnesses. What scientists are trying to figure out, is how permanent these changes will be and whether or not they will cause any damage to the brain. Is it worth the risk to be able to completely change the way we see things? Some think it is well worth the risk to have a better outlook on life.