Today’s Video of the Day from the Salk Institute reveals the discovery of a brain molecule that is responsible for associating good or bad feelings with a memory. The research may ultimately help explain why some people are more likely to retain negative emotions, which is characteristic of many mental health conditions like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“We’ve basically gotten a handle on the fundamental biological process of how you can remember if something is good or bad,” said study senior author Professor Kay Tye. “This is something that’s core to our experience of life, and the notion that it can boil down to a single molecule is incredibly exciting.”
The results of the study suggest that the brain’s default state is to have a bias toward fear. Professor Tye explained that from an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense because it helps people avoid potentially dangerous situations – and it probably resonates with people who tend to find the worst in a situation.
“We can actually manipulate this switch to turn on positive or negative learning,” said study co-first author Hao Li. “Ultimately, we’d like to try to identify novel therapeutic targets for this pathway.”
The research is published in the journal Nature.
Video Credit: Salk Institute