DCS May Extinguish Fearful Memories

Now that we are finally bringing home our troops from Iraq, Pentagon researchers are working to help them work their way through the trauma of years of service in the Middle East. In particular, drugs like D-Cycloserine (DCS) may be able to help erase the fearful feelings that arise when individuals experience post-traumatic stress incidents.

DCS is a pharmaceutical thought to help extinguish fearful memories. It’s usually taken right before exposure therapy, a process that involves recalling traumatic experiences in an effort to nullify the menacing associations that accompany them.

“We already know that exposure therapy is an effective [therapy] for PTSD, and we want to figure out how to optimize it,” Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, who will lead the Emory team’s research, told Danger Room. “I really think that this study will move beyond the theoretical. We can rescue people.”

Exposure therapy is thought to work by allowing patients to revisit traumas in safe settings. Every time the mind remembers an event, it “rewrites” that recollection. By helping a patient rewrite traumatic memories to be less frightening, studies suggest that exposure therapy can significantly improve symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks.

Fans of Philip K. Dick remember the idea of erased memories from his 1966 story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.

I would also point out that Dick understood the difference between having an experience and believing that it was a real experience. See the ersatz window and the psycho-lease encephalic gadget from his 1969 novel Galactic Pot-Healer for more information.

Via Wired.

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