Cutting Edge Psychology

Memory reconsolidation for pain erasure

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Memory reconsolidation is a phenomenon of neuro-plasticity, or the ability of the brain to change itself. This capacity is good news for people who suffer from all sorts of psychological problems, as it creates the possibility of erasing the cognitive and emotional aspects of such problems while leaving the autobiographical memory intact. Coherence Therapy is an example of a psychotherapeutic approach which overtly and deliberately attempts memory reconsolidation, while many other approaches, such as EMDR, Gestalt psychotherapy, Hakomi, Emotion Focused Therapy to name a few, often result in transformative change which has occurred as a result of memory reconsolidation that has been triggered by the therapy. (See my artlcle: 'Inside EMDR', under the EMDR button on the home page for a more lengthy discussion).

In order for memory reconsoldiation to be launched, the target memory or experience needs to be reactivated. Then, a form of experience which stands in stark contradiction to the reactivated experience must be presented. It was only in 2004 that neuroscientists established that memory reconsolidation was a phenomenon which could occur in humans via behavioural means- until then, research had demonstrated its possibility via chemical means. The following research, conducted on mice, is exploring the possibility of memory reconsolidation of pain memories, and pain hypersensitivity which results from exposure to painful stimuli, via chemical means. Although the research is at an early stage, and working with non-human subjects, it does show the incremental nature of scientific endevours. It is quite possible that given a few more years of research, the research may be extended to humans; and then to behavioural/psychological means of addressing chronic pain via memory reconsolidation. In the meantime, Coherence Therapy regularly achieves excellent results with the psychological/emotional issues which often 'drive' chronic pain, resulting in resolution of pain. Perhaps the eventual goal of such neuroscience research is already with us?

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