Scientists may finally understand how fearful memories work and why some people get “stuck” on them more than others. A new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry this past September examined the connection between fearful memories and anxiety.
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Researchers discovered a specific histone might enhance the expression of fear based on how it consolidates those memories. While we have learned some information about how memory works ,, one thing that remains elusive is the effect of fearful memories on a person’s overall well-being. Now, we may finally have some answers.
The histone in question is one known as PRDM2. Researchers found a strong correlation between PRDM10 and fearful memories in the amygdala. The researchers believe this could help us better understand the mechanics of how fearful memories work and why some people react to them more than others.
Previously, researchers with Linkoping University showed that rodents with alcohol dependence showed reduced levels of PRDM2. This downregulation can lead to a greater response in stressful situations. The researchers also found that the rodents with lower levels of the protein were more prone to seek out alcohol when stress levels rose.
Because of the response, the researchers posit that reduced levels of PRDM2 can contribute to how fearful memories work, and how they affect the overall anxiety of the person experiencing them. To test it further, the researchers knocked the activity of the PRDM2 gene in rats even lower using a genetically engineered virus.
They found that the reduced protein levels didn’t change how the fearful memories worked when forming. They produced a more persistent fear response. This caused the fear to take longer to diminish compared to control animals within the study. When looking deeper, the researchers found that the PRDM2 knockdown helped modulate the expression of over 3,6000 genes in the amygdala.
As a result of the study, the researchers believe that the effects PRDM2 has on the amygdala are directly responsible for how fearful memories work, and how anxiety is tied to them. With these findings, we may finally be able to dig deeper into fear itself and other histones and proteins that can affect it so drastically.
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