Saturday, 30 March 2013 18:06

Propranolol and Memory Recall Featured

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The documentary “Horizon: How Does Your Memory Work?” was a film aired on BBC covering a broad range of topics concerning memory. These topics included amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, memory development in children, memory storage, and other dementia or memory related items. Although all these topics were interesting, I found the information about memory encoding and recoding to be the most fascinating along with the effects of Propranolol on memory.


According to the documentary, scientists have long believed that long term memory is permanent. New research however, shows that long term memory is more fluid that previously thought. The connections between neurons, which are believed to create the experience of memory, are actually reconnected or recoded when recalled (“Horizon: How Does Your Memory Work?”). This seems to be the neurological mechanics behind this statement from our text: “We often construct our memories as we encode them, and we may also alter our memories as we withdrawal them from our memory bank” (Myers, 2008). Given this new insight into the brain, how might we use this information?

Propranolol is a drug originally meant to treat hypertension however it is currently being studied for its effects on PTSD (“Propranolol”). One of the ways Propranolol treats hypertension is to block adrenalin receptors in the Amygdala (Geddes, 2009). Studies show that the Amygdala plays a primary role in the processing, and memory of emotional reactions (“Amygdala”). If we take this information, and apply what we know about memory being recoded every time it is recalled, then it’s easy to see why patients who have PSTD are affected. In theory, by blocking the Amygdala’s influence during memory recall, the memory is recoded without the traumatic emotional connection.

The implications of the ability to influence memory are interesting. Does this suggest an ethical issue that needs more insight? Are we changing the lives of those taking Propranolol for hypertension in unwanted, unexpected ways? If Propranolol inhibits the Amygdala and its influence on traumatic memories, does it also inhibit the good emotions we want in connections with happy life experiences like a wedding, or birth of a child? All these are questions we may have to consider if ever Propranolol is conclusively proven to effect emotional memory.

In the future I wonder where this information will take us. Will we be able to target specific memories and erase them with a combination of drugs and therapy? Perhaps we can even use recoding on recall to introduce new memories, or alter existing memories. Psychology has already experimented and understood that memories can be introduced such as experienced with hypnotic suggestion. However, now that we understand more of the mechanics of the process, perhaps we can focus our efforts at more reliable methods to help individuals cope with the hardships of life.


Amygdala. (n.d.). Science Daily. Retrieved October 6, 2009, from


Geddes, L. (2009, February 15). Anti-Phobia Pill Breaks Link Between Memory and Fear. NewScientist. Retrieved October 6, 2009, from'

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