Memory Reconsolidation Interference as an Emerging Treatment for Emotional Disorders: Strengths, Limitations, Challenges, and Opportunities

Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2017 May 8;13:99-121. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032816-045209. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Experimental research on emotional memory reconsolidation interference, or the induction of amnesia for previously established emotional memory, has a long tradition, but the potential of that research for the development of novel interventions to treat psychological disorders has been recognized only recently. Here we provide an overview of basic research and clinical studies on emotional memory reconsolidation interference. We point out specific advantages of interventions based on memory reconsolidation interference over traditional treatment for emotional disorders. We also explain how findings from basic research suggest limitations and challenges to clinical translation that may help to understand why clinical trials have met with mixed success so far and how their success can be increased. In closing, we preview new intervention approaches beyond the induction of amnesia that the phenomenon of memory reconsolidation may afford for alleviating the burden imposed by emotional memories and comment on theoretical controversies regarding the nature of memory reconsolidation.

Keywords: PTSD; addiction; amnesia; anxiety; emotional memory; reconsolidation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / physiopathology
  • Affective Symptoms / therapy*
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*