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Xenon may be a cure for PTSD

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Xenon gas has a great potential for eliminating the memories that produce many of the symptoms and behaviors involved in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as other memory memory-related disorders. Dr. Edward G. Meloni, assistant psychologist at McLean Hospital and an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Marc J. Kaufman director of the McLean Hospital Translational Imaging Laboratory are the first to demonstrate the benefits of xenon gas in PTSD in rats. The research was published in the Aug. 27, 2014, edition of the journal Public Library of Science.

Rats were conditioned to display PTSD symptoms by repeated exposure to electric shock. The rats demonstrated PTSD by freezing in place even when no electric shock was active if the same conditions were in effect. Rats that were exposed to low concentrations of xenon gas forgot their conditioning and fear. The xenon gas interfered with the normal function of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA) that is involved in producing memory. The loss of memory of the event that produced a PTSD response in rats lasted for two weeks after a single exposure to xenon gas.

Xenon has been used safely in anesthesia and diagnostic imaging involving humans. The researchers are continuing their work with rats to determine the lowest possible exposure time that produces the loss of a traumatic memory. The next phase will be human testing. This could be a cure or at least the first viable treatment for PTSD because the re-experiencing of traumatic memories is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of PTSD. One could imagine all first responders may be equipped with xenon in the future to deal with PTSD in victims of tragedies and in themselves.