Researchers from Japan erased the memory of the Drosophila fly, leaving the insect in the dark for several days. In the future, this method can help people get rid of traumatic memories.
Scientists from the University of Tokyo have found that Drosophila flies lose some of the long-term memory of a traumatic event when they are in the dark for a long time. This is the first confirmation that light plays an important role in maintaining the memory of insects. The team was also able to determine the specific molecular mechanism responsible for this effect. Scientists said that in other conditions, long-term memory is difficult to erase, but this work can lead to new methods of treatment.
Researchers have explained that a particularly shocking event can be consolidated in long-term memory, resulting in new proteins being synthesized and neural circuits in the brain changing. Such memories can be devastating, causing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, from a physiological point of view, preservation of memory is an active process that requires constant cell restructuring and renewal of the body.
Japanese scientists conducted an experiment – if a male Drosophila fly does not mate for a long time, then this is fixed in long-term memory. Over time, such an individual ceases to care for females. The team found that if such a fly is kept in the dark for two days, it forgets about the injury and behaves as usual.
So the researchers were able to find out that the light of the environment somehow changed the preservation of long-term memory. To confirm their findings, biologists focused on protein (PDF). It is located in the brain of a fly and responds to light. There, they discovered that PDF is linked to a protein that is responsible for memory and learning.
Traumatic experiences are very difficult to forget; they can seriously impair the quality of life. But the team’s discoveries showed that these memories, in fact, can be significantly affected by environmental factors in living organisms. This may open up new possibilities for treating victim injuries.