on-going research 


In some circumstances memories may be updated when they are recalled


Reconsolidation is a bimolecular mechanism mediating specific protein synthesis


The method allows the change of emotions, negative automatic thoughts and dysfunctional schemas


Can be integrated into various forms of psychotherapy

Click to enlarge graph

Partly following references by Marie-H Monfils 2012

Reconsolidation in psychotherapy at a glance


The patient recalls memory in emotional detail. The patient’s recall of memory is mediated by using techniques the therapist is in control and comfortable with - the procedure is not allowed to develop into so-called catharsis sessions: increased prefrontal cognitive control is one of the central components. When an old memory is recalled, the reconsolidation window opens and becomes temporarily and optimally amenable to change for one hour, up to about 5-6 hours. The therapist helps the patient to pinpoint the problem and find alternative emotional components that can be used to "overwrite" the previous memory.

Unlocking / mismatch

When the molecular window is open, the memory trace is also changeable. Prepared alternative emotional memories and verbal explanatory models is presented or exposed imaginary or in vivo.

Memory change

New memory modules "overwrite" previous emotional memories. Research shows that for a sustained effect, the procedure needs to be repeated up to six times during a session, ie in the optimal change window.

More research is needed.

A therapeutic program with a neuropsychological evidence based profile

Unlocking the Emotional Brain

- Eliminating Symptoms at Their Roots Using Memory Reconsolidation


by Bruce Ecker, Robin Ticic and Laurel Hulley


Psychotherapy that regularly yields liberating, lasting change was, in the last century, a futuristic vision, but it has now become reality, thanks to a convergence of remarkable advances in clinical knowledge and brain science. In Unlocking the Emotional Brain, authors Ecker, Ticic and Hulley equip readers to carry out focused, empathic therapy using the process found by researchers to induce memory reconsolidation, the recently discovered and only known process for actually unlocking emotional memory at the synaptic level. Emotional memory's tenacity is the familiar bane of therapists, and researchers have long believed that emotional memory forms indelible learning. Reconsolidation has overturned these views. It allows new learning to erase, not just suppress, the deep, unconscious, intensely problematic emotional learnings that form during childhood or in later tribulations and generate most of the symptoms that bring people to therapy. Readers will learn methods that precisely eliminate unwanted, ingrained emotional responses-whether moods, behaviors or thought patterns-causing no loss of ordinary narrative memory, while restoring clients' well-being.

Erasing Fear


Dissertation from University of Uppsala, Sweden




Agren, T. (2012). Erasing Fear: Effect of Disrupting Fear Memory Reconsolidation on Central and Peripheral Nervous System Activity. Dissertation. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Sweden.


Fear memories, here defined as learned associations between a stimulus and a physiological fear reaction, are formed through fear conditioning. In animals, fear memories, present in the lateral amygdala, undergo reconsolidation after recall. Moreover, this reconsolidation process can be disrupted both pharmacologically and behaviourally, resulting in a reduced fear response to the stimulus. This thesis examines the attenuation of fear memories by disrupting reconsolidation in humans, using measures of both the central and peripheral nervous system activity. Serotonergic and dopaminergic genes have previously been tied to both fear conditioning and anxiety disorders, where fear conditioning mechanisms are important. In order to evaluate the possible role of fear memory reconsolidation mechanims in the effect on fear and anxiety by these genes, this thesis also compare the reconsolidation disruption effect between different serotonergic and dopaminergic genotypes.


Study I examined the attentuation of fear memories by disrupting reconsolidation in humans using reacquisition as a measure of the return of fear. Moreover, study I investigated the impact of differences in serotonergic and dopaminergic alleles on this process.


Study II examined the attentuation of fear memories by disrupting reconsolidation in humans using reinstatement as a measure of the return of fear. Study II also investigated the impact of differences in serotonergic and dopaminergic alleles on the process of fear memory reconsolidation.


Study III used psychophysiology and fMRI to localize the functional neural activity mediating the fear memory reconsolidation disruption effect.


In summary, this thesis provides evidence that fear memories are attenuated by reconsolidation disruption in humans and that serotonergic and dopaminergic alleles influence this process. Moreover, this thesis support that human fear memory reconsolidation is amygdaladependent, suggesting an evolutionary shared memory mechanism.


Download the dissertation: Agren, T. (2012)

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