This story presents the early findings of an animal experiment that showed fear memories were erased by degrading an extracellular matrix surrounding specific nerve cells in the brain. However, it failed to remind the readers that animal studies do not necessarily guarantee that the same results will be seen in humans. Even though the research is intriguing and the news story may be tongue-in-cheek, the implication that it will be available and beneficial to humans is misleading to consumers.
Researchers have only tested chondroitinase ABC (ChABC) on animals and it’s understandable that costs would not be discussed at this point.
While the story mentions that “bad memories had been erased” in the mice, it does not provide any data or any indication of how fear manifests in a mouse. Furthermore, the story should have made it clear that is it not known if this same effect would be seen in humans.
No adverse effects were reported in the research; however, the story briefly mentions the ethical and medical concerns that may be associated with a drug that erases memory.
The story provided a cursory explanation of the methodology, but failed to provide any specifics, including how the researchers measured fear in the mice. This story also fails to include the caveat that animal research does not necessarily translate to humans.
The story begins: "Want to forget about that painful breakup? Wish you could put some troubling childhood memories out of your mind? Someday soon, it might be as easy as popping a pill." While it goes on to discuss post-traumatic disorder – a serious memory issue – the story leads by framing the memory of painful breakups as something that is a disease that should be treated. That’s disease mongering.
This story provided comments from two independent sources, including a neurologist and a neuroscientist; however, they contributed only hypothetical statements. Perhaps commentary from someone in the mental health profession would have been useful. Additionally, the story may have also mentioned that this research took place in an institute associated with the pharmaceutical company, Novartis.
This story does not discuss current psychological practices to treat fear and anxiety disorders or how this new research might be relevant.
The story makes it clear that this “mind-cleansing” drug is not available.
The story makes it clear this would be a novel approach.
This story does not rely on a press release, but it is largely based on a piece in the London Daily Mail. We can’t be sure of the extent to which the original story may have relied on a news release.