Recoding memories could remove drug-seeking tendencies


It might be possible rewrite positive memories which lure drug-seekers back to their old environments, new research has found.

A team of UK and US scientists were able to get mice to associate cocaine with certain environments.

It meant the rodents, when faced with a choice between the cocaine-paired areas and the control areas -- paired with saline -- tended to spend more time in the areas they'd associated with the drugs.

When an animal is in a specific location in its environment, there are neurons called "place cells" in the hippocampus, the brain's memory and emotion centre, which activate.

But once the neurons were tagged and their activities silenced, the mice no longer preferred the drug-linked environments over the saline environments.

It suggests the memories had been recoded so the environment isn't associated with cocaine anymore, the study's authors said, without entirely removing the memories.

If the same results can be replicated on humans, it could help recovering drug addicts lose the drive to revisit their old haunts.