Beginning of Semester Goals

  • Run the ASMR Lab quickly so I can shift focus to the VR Lab
  • Help collect data on other studies, Kat’s Meditation Lab, Cam and Chris’ Fear Lab, etc.
  • Finish collecting and analyzing data on the VR Lab by the end of the semester
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End of Semester Goals

Most of my semester goals are accomplished, and the ones that are left are just due to an impossibility of timing. I put myself on Kat and Monica’s study to help collect data, but no one signed up for my time slots. I, also, just did not get the opportunity to learn how to inject this semester even though I almost did twice. Lauren just didn’t need the extra hands, I believe. Now that the IRB is accepted and the survey is done, while we didn’t have time to run participants this semester, I can do it right away next semester. I also hope to find a way next semester to combine both Dr. Teissere and Dr. Gotthard’s research labs. To figure out a way to overlap the two would be amazing.

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Prediction Error Governs Pharmacologically Induced Amnesia for Learned Fear. By, Sevenster et al

Article Citation:

Sevenster, D, et al. Prediction error governs pharmacologically induced amnesia for learned fear. Sciencemag.org Vol 339. (2013). 830-833.

Brief Summary:

Using an index of memory destabilization that is unrelated to reconsolidation, the researchers showed that prediction error is mandatory for the reconsolidation of a fear memory and dependent on the relationship between the first time something is learned and when you go to remember it. This study, similar to the previously read one done by Treanor et al, wanted to look at the effect of boundary conditions on reconsolidation to further inform any treatment that might be looking at reconsolidation.

Critical Analysis:

This paper seemed to be lacking a great deal in terms of information on the participants. I think it made me a little confused to see that there was very little mentioned about the participants and their demographics that we usually see on studies such as these. Especially since studies on the mind can be so subjective and fiddly, it doesn’t make sense to omit the data about the participants ensuring that you have a representative sample. All in all, though, I really enjoyed the study. I thought that the methods were really clever, especially having constant shocks for all of day one and then none on day two for the negative PE, because that made me realize that the people would be expecting a shock that wouldn’t come. Whereas with the positive PE, since they only were shocked once on the first day, they know that there’s both a possibility for a shock and a possibility that there will not be one. That just meant that when the propranolol worked effectively, I understood the mechanistic details of the study a little better.

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Moving Forward…

Unveiling a new experiment! I kind of got the idea for it last semester reading some literature about how visual stimulus disrupts visual memory, but auditory stimulus has little to no effect on visual memory. Seeing as we are usually talking about our memory research in terms of PTSD, I know that a lot of PTSD triggers are tied up with auditory memory (eg. a car backfiring or video game sound effects can throw a veteran into an episode). So, I originally wanted to see how auditory stimulus might disrupt auditory memory. The best way I could think to do that was with ASMR videos.

ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. A lot of people, myself included, use it in the background while studying as white noise. Other people like the tingling sensation they get listening to it. I thought that it was a great auditory stimulus that could disrupt the auditory side of memories. For example, we would have them listen to a simple audio clip of two people talking, have them listen to the ASMR clip, and then see what they could remember.

When Dr. Gotthard saw the video, she really built off that initial idea. She realized that the video, which just presented a background scene, could be a good opportunity to try to stimulate episodic memory. Since things were moving around in our scene and there was enough white noise to simulate an actual environment, we could ask participants to focus on pretending like they were in that scene, and try to create a narrative with the noises of their experiences. Afterwards, they would do a visuospatial disruptor (Tetris) or sit quietly to themselves for 5 minutes. Then, we would test them on how well they remembered the scene.

I had only been looking at one aspect of the memory, the auditory, but now we have the opportunity to disrupt the memory as a whole. Ideally, we’d have at least 20 participants in the experiment. I’m so excited to try it out. Our IRB just got approved by Dr. Tjeltveit, so whether we start this semester or next, I’m really excited to see where this could take us!

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The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. By, Li & Goldsmith

Article Citation:

Li, A & Goldsmith, C. The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Alternative Medicine Review. Vol 17:1.

Brief Summary:

The article served as a review of yoga and its effect in reducing anxiety. While yoga seemed to be widely effective in lowering stress in 25 out of 35 trials, the large number of confounds and limitations as well as the inconsistent nature of the resulting data meant that the study overall was a good first step but needed to be further refined.

Critical Analysis:

I thought that the fact this paper got published at all was very interesting. While it was technically “successful” the lack of consistency and the amount of limitations made it seem more like a result by chance rather than something that can be practicably applied and recreated. It’s strange that it is difficult to quantify this consistently, even on a small scale, especially since yoga already has a reputation for rest and relaxation. It makes me wonder whether yoga’s reputation works as a placebo effect, just making the people who do it believe that they’re getting calmer, or if the nature or the environment of the study prevented the participants from feeling fully at ease. It would make sense that such would be the case seeing as – if the participants knew that they were being observed and tested – they would be doing yoga with that knowledge in mind. There would be a subconscious or conscious pressure that came from being watched and evaluated. Also, being asked about stress levels prior to the yoga could have just increased stress in the participants, past what they might feel naturally.

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Preventing intrusive memories after trauma via a brief intervention involving Tetris computer game play in the emergency department: a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial. By, Iyaduri et al

Article Citation:

Iyadurai, L et al. Preventing intrusive memories after trauma via a brief intervention involving Tetris computer game play in the emergency department: a proof-of-concept randomized controlled trial. Molecular Psychiatry. (2017). 1-9.

Brief Summary:

In this study, the researchers worked in real time with patients coming into the emergency room of the hospital trying to prevent the development of PTSD. They hypothesized that through the use of Tetris, the visuospatial task would take up the patient’s working memory. With the working memory compromised, complete consolidation of the memories of the traumatic event would not occur.

Critical Analysis:

It was refreshing to see the amount of preparation and the levels of care that the researchers took in order to make sure everything remained ethical. When I was first reading this paper, I grew considered about the possible negative consequences for the participants. What if it didn’t work and people suffered more? Or they believed they were getting help and still experienced PTSD either because Tetris didn’t disrupt properly or they were in the control group? The control group was especially sketchy to me, since they were inducing invasive memories in the patients. This was an extremely risky study, in my opinion, but absolutely necessary. We need an opportunity to prove this in a volatile work environment, practical applications. Ideally, such treatments would be taking place in the emergency department anyway. This is exactly where the research should end up.

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Can Memories of Traumatic Experiences or Addiction Be Erased or Modified? A Critical Review of Research on the Disruption of Memory Reconsolidation and Its Applications. By, Treanor et al

Article Citation:

Treanor, M, et al. Can memories of traumatic experiences or addiction be erased or modified? A critical review of research on disruption of memory reconsolidation and its applications. Association for Psychological Science. (2017). 290-305

Brief Summary:

In studying reconsolidation, the researchers wanted to focus on “boundary conditions” that affect whether or not a memory will be disrupted or consolidated. Oftentimes, these conditions can confound clinica1l trials or prevent the practical application of clinical data. The article sought to more clearly define these “boundary conditions” by looking at its nature, chemistry, and effects. The possible “conditions” include duration of reminder trial and trace dominance, cue specificity, memory strength, age of the memory, context specificity, specificity in response systems, temporal stability, and high trait anxiety.

Critical Analysis:

I think I took for granted that these just seemed like accepted facts. Logically, reading this paper, all these variables made sense to me. None of these seemed radical, but the idea of doing a cumulative review of all the different ways these variables can be quantitatively and qualitatively measured is really intelligent. Especially with the mind and the memory, variables that can be controlled and managed when dealing with anxiety and PTSD treatment. In terms of treatment, especially in-person therapy, while variables like age of memory or high trait anxiety cannot be controlled, but just about all the other variables, it’s plausible that they could be managed or tailored depending on the treatment or the person. Understanding the variables helps improve reliability which is crucial to moving forward in researching PTSD treatment. My only qualm with this study is their assertion that the older a memory is, the stronger. While – to be fair – this may be the case with severe trauma, I can’t understand the logic behind it. As time passes, memories become less accurate and fade, so I’m not sure I can back that completely.

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Interfering with the reconsolidation of traumatic memory: Sirolimus as a novel agent for treating veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. By, Suris et al

Article Citation:

Suris, A, et al. Interfering with the reconsolidation of traumatic memory: Sirolimus as a novel agent for treating veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Ann Clin Psychiatry. (2013). 33-40.

Brief Summary:

This study looked at using protein synthesis inhibitors – such as Sirolimus – to treat PTSD patients who were veterans from the post-Vietnam era. However, the primary conclusion reached by this paper was that more investigation needed to be done, as there weren’t any significant differences between treatment groups on any level.

Critical Analysis:

  • I thought that it was interesting that, while overall there were no significant differences between treatment groups, there were some differences depending on when you went into combat. The veterans in the treatment group who had more recently seen combat had had symptom scores much lower than the veterans who had served in the same time period but were in the control group. I think that this speaks to the possibility that age of memory does actually strengthen the memory. I was skeptical about it earlier in the semester, but if the more recent memories are easier to disrupt, then that would me the older memories are more solid, and harder to affect.
  • The risks just seem to outweigh the benefits in this study. The compounds involved are highly dangerous, and, I believe, carcinogenic. With such low yield in terms of significant results, I don’t think the answer to helping our veterans overcome their PTSD lies in giving them cancer. Behavioral treatments still seem like the better option as opposed to drug fixes.
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Extinction-reconsolidation boundaries: key to persistent attenuation of fear memories. By, Monfils et al

Article Citation:

Monfils, M, et al. Extinction-reconsolidation boundaries: key to persistent attenuation of fear memories. Sciencemag.org Vol 324. (2009). 951-955

Brief Summary:

There have been some difficulties in the past translating fear memory suppression from rats to humans due to the toxicity of the drugs being used on rats (Previously read about in Schiller and Phelps). This research done in 2009 showed a novel method to destabilize a fear memory without the use of drugs.

Critical Analysis:

  • I don’t think I’ve read an article quite like this one. This got down on a very molecular level, as opposed to the more general behavioral studies that we tend to see. I had never thought to look at it from a receptor level, though now that this article is here, it makes sense that the targeted receptor dealing with destabilization is a glutamatergic one and not a GABAergic one. It makes sense that in the formation of memories, glutamate is needed to stimulate an excitatory response. But that does make me wonder at the role of GABA. Would an excitation of the GABA receptors have a similar effect as the de-phosphorylation of the glutamate receptors? These are some things that we are talking about and discussing in my Neurons and Networks class, and interest me as to the connections between the molecular viewpoint and the behavioral one.
  • I loved the section of the study where they checked if their retrieval and extinction model led to a permanent re-evaluation of the conditioned stimulus and checked to see if the rat could then be further reconditioned. The no retrieval and retrieval groups showed no difference during extinction or the CS-US pairing session, showing that the initial memory could have been disrupted or that the stimulus would have then been coded as safe.
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