According to researchers at New York University, fearful memories can be erased if tackled within six hours, which could help those with disorders like post-traumatic stress. Reliving a bad memory opens up what’s called a “reconsolidation window,” the BBC reports, a short timespan when a bad memory can be switched to good. In the study, reported in Nature, volunteers were wired to electrodes and given a shock whenever shown a picture of differently coloured squares, making them fear the images. One day later, they re-exposed volunteers to the same images, but without the shocks. This helped banish the fear only if the volunteer first recalled the bad experience no longer than six hours before “treatment” commenced. The treatment only blocked fear for the specific square the fear memory recalled, suggesting it’s a highly specific treatment. “Our memory reflects our last retrieval of it rather than an exact account of the original event,” lead researcher Dr. Elizabeth Phelps of New York University told the BBC. “Our results suggest a non-pharmacological, naturalistic approach to more effectively manage emotional memories.”
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