Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often classified as an anxiety disorder is caused when a person has been through a traumatic event like sexual assault, warfare, threat, etc.  You may also experience the PTSD symptoms that include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety if you are the lone survivor of an accident. The guilt-ridden soul may go on to develop PTSD.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School have recently published a study in PLOS ONE wherein they have stated that Xenon (the anesthetic gas) could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions linked with fear and anxiety.

What is Xenon? How does it work?

  • Xenon is colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas which is more commonly used as an anesthesia.
  • Xenon induces anesthesia by blocking a molecule in the brain known as the NMDA receptor – associated with memory function – and as a result, the gas may also interfere with memory re-consolidation, a process in which previously stored memories get altered each time they are recalled.

The fact that we were able to inhibit remembering of a traumatic memory with xenon is very promising because it is currently used in humans for other purposes, and thus it could be re-purposed to treat PTSD,” said co-author of the study Marc Kaufman, associate professor of psychiatry from the Harvard Medical School.

How were the inferences drawn?

The researchers used rats for the study who were trained to be afraid of sounds that were paired with painful electrical shocks to their feet.

“The investigators found that a single hour-long dose of xenon was enough to reduce rats’ fear responses and the effects remained for up to two weeks,” Edward Meloni from the Harvard Medical School added.

If future research shows that xenon has the same effect on people’s fearful memories, it could potentially be used to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Source: IANS