A group from the University of Leicester has found there is a strong relationship between a specific protein produced by the brain, and stress levels. Through observing the ‘thin’ and ‘mushroom-like’ parts of nerve cells (Responsible for learning and memory) they have discovered that it is possible to adjust memories – Possibly making those that are stressful much less, stressful. This discovery came about after having performed tests on mice; these tests found that those lacking this protein were much less outgoing and preferred to be alone, away from others.
This breakthrough in research is intended to allow us to control production of the protein in human brains in order to control memories, helping individuals from experiencing too much stress or anxiety after living through highly stressful situations. According to Pawlak from the University of Leicester explained that while our brains are normally able to deal with stress well, through rebuilding connections between cells – better adapting us to stress. However, in highly stressful situations this process can carry on uncontrollably and can prevent effective communication between cells. The basic idea for treatment with regard to this discovery is to control the amount of lipocalin-2, slightly increasing its creation to lessen the stress of stressful events.
So far this test has only been run on mice in laboratory conditions and they are now looking at a future of furthering the tests on humans. When the mice were tested, they removed lipocalin-2 from their brains and exposed them to stressful situations. From this they could see that the Mushroom spines, responsible for memory, were formed much quicker than normal, indicating a much stronger memory of the event. Now testing on mice is one thing, their brain is tiny relative to humans. Could testing this theory on humans have severe consequences? The prospect of fiddling with memories to make them more stressful could have the potential to mask memories completely or maybe even destroy those which were not intended to be destroyed. The testing of this theory on humans would seem to be very risky, especially at such an early stage of research.
University of Leicester (2011, October 9). Brainstudy reveals stress code. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 17, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003151826.htm