How Remembering Happier Times May Actually Help Fight Depression

Apparently, happy memories are a lot stronger than sad feelings, according to a new study (in mice).

Researchers from the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics found that recalling positive memories might be able to reverse stress-induced depression.

The team used genetic engineering to create mice in which memory cells could be tagged while memories formed and later reactivated. Basically, they could force the mice to recall a past experience.

Here's what they found, from the press release:

Male mice were given a positive experience — exposure to a female mouse — and formed a memory of the event. They were then exposed to a stressful experience that led to a depression-like state. While they were depressed, light was used to ... reactivate the memory cells for the positive experience. Surprisingly, this resulted in a robust recovery from the depressed state.

Interestingly, mice that were regularly given actual positive experience (female company again), instead of the light to trigger their memory, showed no such improvement.

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Obviously, we don't yet know how this experiment could be applied to humans, but the results shed more light on how specific memory-storing areas of the brain can change behavior.

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