Monday, February 16, 2009

Life Imitating Art?

Oh, this is just too funny timing-wise. As you may recall, I just had a video done by the very funny Onion about a drug named Despondex, to help cure those interminably cheery people. Well, as it turns out, there is new research out about a drug that would essentially do the opposite, detailed in this article, A Spotless Mind? Blood Pressure Pill Could Erase Bad Memories, Study Says. I swear I am not making this up. And it is NOT from the Onion. It's for real!

But it isn't so much that the pill would make you happy (as opposed to no longer being "cheery"). Rather, it has farther reaching consequences than that:
A widely available blood pressure pill could one day help people erase bad memories, perhaps treating some anxiety disorders and phobias, according to a Dutch study published on Sunday.

The generic beta-blocker propranolol significantly weakened people's fearful memories of spiders among a group of healthy volunteers who took it, said Merel Kindt, a psychologist at the University of Amsterdam, who led the study.

"We could show that the fear response went away, which suggests the memory was weakened," Kindt said in a telephone interview.

The findings published in the journal Nature Neuroscience are important because the drug may offer another way to help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems related to bad memories.

Obviously, there is a lot of potential value with this drug, especially in terms of traumatic memories. And, since too many of our military personnel are returning with PTSD, it may be VERY helpful indeed:
Traditionally, therapists seek to teach people with such disorders strategies to build new associations and block bad memories. The problem, Kindt said, is the memories remain and people often relapse.

Animal studies have shown that fear memories can change when recalled, a process known as reconsolidation. At this stage they are also vulnerable to beta-blockers like propranolol, which target neurons in the brain, the researchers said.

Kindt and her team's experiment included 60 men and women who learned to associate pictures of spiders with a mild shock. This experience created a fearful memory, the researchers said.

Other participants saw the same picture but did not receive an electrical shock. For these people this established a "safe" association without a fear response or bad memory.

One day later people given the drug had a greatly decreased fear response compared with people on the placebo when shown the picture and given a mild shock, the researchers said.

"There was no difference to the fear spider and the safe spider," Kindt said. "This shows it is possible to weaken the underlying memory by interfering with it."

The next steps are to look at how long the drug's effects on memory last, and testing the treatment in people who actually are suffering from some kind of disorder or phobia, Kindt said.

Life imitating art, only with a pill as opposed tot he means used in the Jim Carrey movie. WOW.

In other news, Secretary of State Clinton has arrived in Tokyo on her first trip abroad in her new position. I don't know about you, but I know it makes me feel better knowing SHE is the one dealing with these countries, especially ones like North Korea. And that she has included issues of climate change and clean energy to her department. Her trip is pretty far-reaching, it would appear, though not without some concern. Apparently, human-rights groups are upset that the Obama Administration is not doing enough to address the issue, to which Clinton responded:
"We're not going to be shying away from talking about human rights issues, but we have a very broad agenda to deal with when it comes to dealing with China," Clinton said. "It's fair to say that this first trip will be one intended to really find a path forward to have as robust an engagement as possible on a range of issues."

I could be wrong, but I think that is one big difference right there between what we COULD have had, and what we have. Clinton has been committed to the issue of human rights for some time now. I doubt SHE would have relegated it to the "sidelines," as the article said.

Still, I am glad she is doing the heavy work in this arena. This is one of the few GOOD choices Obama has made (c'mon, really - starting with Biden on down, Clinton is clearly the best choice Obama has made). And I hope this is a successful trip for her, and the United States. I look forward to hearing more from Secretary Clinton as time goes on. That is definitely a bright spot during this tumultuous time...


SFIndie said...

I'm not so sure this drug is a good idea, Rev. Granted, traditional therapy often doesn't work. If you try to block bad memories, the mind may temporarily forget, but the body will remember and the memories will return. Using a pill to block memories will have the same effect. It's impossible to deny the body-mind connection. The struggle between the mind that won't or can't remember and the body that still carries the memory will result in the physical manifestation of dis-ease in the body.

There's a technique called "Focusing", developed by Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D., where one goes beyond the emotion of the issue or trauma to the "felt sense", which allows new insights and healing. It's pretty amazing stuff. It may not be as easy as popping a pill, but look at what taking the easy way out has just gotten us - a trillion dollar unread unknown piece of pork!

Oh, Hillary, to think we coulda had you.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Not to disagree with you, SF, but to think we SHOULDA had ya abt Hillary!

Oh, I hear you abt this drug. I can see why people suffering from PTSD or other traumatic events would want to not feel that any longer, but it is, as you suggest, a slippery slope.

And yes, traditional therapy does not always do the job, and sometimes help is needed. But our past informs our present and our future. Or job is to figure out how to make sure our past informs, but does not rule, us.

I know too many people who have ended up with cancer because they have suppressed events in their lives (and THEY are the ones who believe that is why they got cancer - I am not attaching that to them), so I totally hear ya, SF!

You are bang on - taking the easy way out may be easier on the face of it, but we all know that's an illusion. (Or we should know it, anyway.)

SFIndie said...

I stand corrected:

Hillary, we SHOULDA had you and we WOULDA had you if not for the deceit and fraud perpetrated by the party-formerly-known-as-the-Democratic-party.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Well said, SF!! That's exactly right...

At least we can watch Hillary speak again - that is sure a blessing. TO see someone who is intelligent, experienced, and knowledgeable discuss the issues...