Pill to calm traumatic memories

Psychiatrists at Harvard are testing the “Memory Pill”, a new drug to erase bad memories.

Harvard researchers are targeting in particular memories that cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental condition that can generate panic attacks, increased heart rate and crippling fear.

When a person experiences a traumatic event, the body releases adrenaline, a stress hormone that makes you, say, run from an aggressor. But that same adrenaline has also the ability to strengthen your memory.


Pitman has been experimenting with propranolol, a drug commonly used to treat hypertension that blocks the action of adrenaline and noradrenaline. “We figured we could give people this propranolol to affect the memory before it gets laid down,” he explains. He adds that the drug doesn�t cause people to remember things differently, just less strongly, “We would say it would more approximate a normal memory.”

Not everyone welcomes the pill. Gina Scaramella, who works at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, says it’s important for women to feel in control when they are recovering from a sexual assault, and taking propranolol means giving up control over their memories. Then, anyone who took that medicine could be in trouble in a legal case, since defense lawyers may say that the victim was so unstable that she needed drugs to cope, or that the propranolol may have altered her memory about the assault. Other ethicists say the pill may erase the rage that victims will need to go on and prosecute their attackers.

Via La Repubblica.
ACF News source for information in english. Pic from Harvard University Gazette.