Methamphetamine: Research Aims to Disrupt Drug-Associated Memories Interview with:

Ph.D., Neurobiology & Behavior and Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory (2005), University of California, Irvine, CaliforniaCourtney A. Miller, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Metabolism & Aging
Department of Neuroscience
The Scripps Research Institute
Jupiter, FL 33458 What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Miller: The relapse rate for drug abusers, smokers and alcoholics is high because abstinence is so difficult. A major factor is the craving that drug associations can trigger. These range from seeing the neighborhood where someone used to buy, in the case of illicit drugs, to social drinking for a smoker. We’ve found a way to disrupt these drug-associated memories without affecting other, more benign memories. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Miller: The main finding was unexpected. Everything we know about how the brain stores memories suggests that all memories rely on the same mechanisms. But we found that the structural state of brain cells storing memories associated with methamphetamine is unique, so we exploited that to selectively erase them. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Miller: We’re still a long way from a therapeutic, but there’s the potential for a surprisingly simple treatment. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Miller: While we’re excited about the results of this study, it’s raised more questions than answers. For example, we don’t yet know why the structural state of neurons is different when methamphetamine is involved. We’re also looking into the potential of this manipulation to disrupt memories for other drugs (e.g. nicotine) and for traumatic events, which would be promising for the treatment of PTSD.


Selective, Retrieval-Independent Disruption of Methamphetamine-Associated Memory by Actin Depolymerization
Erica J. Young, Massimiliano Aceti, Erica M. Griggs, Rita A. Fuchs, Zachary Zigmond, Gavin Rumbaugh, Courtney A. Miller
Biological Psychiatry – 09 September 2013 (10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.07.036)

Last Updated on March 4, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD