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NIAAA study: Brain cell clusters compete to sustain or suppress traumatic memories

Updated: Jun 14, 2021

A new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found two clusters of brain cells that compete to promote the persistence or disappearance of traumatic memories. The study, conducted with mice, examined clusters of neurons and found two clusters that promote either a fear response or an extinction of the memory. Researchers also found that the clusters compete with one another to determine the strength of each memory. NIAAA Director Dr. George F. Koob noted that “Over time, the distress of having experienced trauma will subside for some people, as memories of the trauma cease to provoke a fearful response. For other people who have experienced trauma, however, the fearful memories persist…The current study sheds light on the specific neural circuits that may underlie the persistence and the extinction of fearful memories associated with trauma.”

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