Stress can enhance ordinary, unrelated memories

Stress can enhance ordinary, unrelated memories, a team of neuroscientists has found in a study of laboratory rats. Their results, which appear in the journal PLoS Biology, may bolster our understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and could offer a pathway for addressing PTSD and related afflictions.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Czech Republic's Academy of Sciences, the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, and Rockefeller University.

''Our results show that stress can activate memory, even if that memory is unrelated to the stressful experience,'' explained André Fenton, the study's lead author and a professor at New York University's Center for Neural Science.

''Additional investigations into the effects of stress on memories could shed light on PTSD and other stress-related mood disorders,'' added Fenton, who directed the studies while he was a Research Scientist in the Czech Republic and an associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate.

The study's other authors are: Karel Ježek of the Czech Republic's Academy of Sciences; Benjamin Lee and Eduard Kelemen of SUNY Downstate; and Katharine McCarthy and Bruce McEwen of Rockefeller University.

A common feature of PTSD and various mood and anxiety disorders is the formation of negative associations from otherwise innocuous stimuli or the recall of negative memories stimulated by unrelated, neutral circumstances. What's less clear is how stress influences these phenomena.