Sedative may help to forget bad experience, says study

Research has shown that the use of propofol (sedative) has contributed to forgetting a recent memory.

The results are from a study carried out at Hospital Clínico San Carlos de Madrid. In all, 50 people, between 30 and 45 years old, participated in the tests. The study was published in the journal Science Advances .

Although more tests are needed, scientists believe they have found a non-invasive form of treatment.

Propofol is a sedative, applied by injection, indicated mainly for anesthesia during surgeries and diagnoses, which can lead to unconsciousness.

How was the study done?

Scientists showed images that told a bad story. A week later, the researchers showed a reminder for respondents to remember that story.

With this memory recently activated, employees received propofol. After 24 hours, participants who were sedated found it difficult to remember the images of the bad story.

For researchers, this is because when a memory is recently created, it can be easily changed. Thus, the sedative acted on the hippocampus (a region of the brain linked to memory) by modifying newly formed memory.

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How is memory created?

All the experiences lived are interpreted and stored in the brain, but how this process is done is still a mystery.

Memory is divided into two types:

  • Procedure memory: it  is the storage of repetitions of everyday life. Once maintained, they do not need total focus to be remembered (riding a bicycle, driving or knowing the way from work to home, for example);
  • Declarative memory: it is the storage of facts that we perceive through our senses, deductions or data (telling a story, remembering places, dates and names, for example).

As for the time the information is saved, there are three types:

  1. Working memory: stores information for a few seconds before being discarded (phone numbers are good examples of working memory);
  2. Short-term memory: keeps the information for a few hours or a few days before being discarded (such as the exact words of a sentence or the last meals);
  3. Long-term memory: keeps information for years before being discarded or may never be discarded (name of parents or companies where you worked, for example).

Although this discovery can bring benefits to some people, as knowledge helps to discover new treatments.