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Remember, the brain of the November 13 survivors listening to science

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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At the trial of November 13, 2015, the specially constituted criminal court in Paris has been hearing since the end of September of the survivors of these attacks. On top of them, several recount the consequences of that terrifying night on their lives, including the post-traumatic stress they experience. A syndrome that manifests mainly through early memories: flashbacks caused by smell, sound or image. The Remember Study, in which victims of these attacks are involved, seeks to understand the mechanisms of memory control.

Why do some victims of November 13 recover better than others? This is the question he has been trying to answer for six years The team of neuroscientist Pierre Janiban, based in Caen with the help of about 200 volunteers, of whom 120 were victims of these attacks. These participants have already come to Normandy three times for MRI scans. In the program, tests and exercises to understand how their brain controls their memory. ” When I arrive, I am forced to learn pairs of words and pictures. For example, the image of a cup and the word “pen” ’” says Sophie, a Bataclan survivor.

Medical imaging to study post-traumatic stress disorder

« I’ve learned dozens of them like that. They make me rehearse and go through some kind of checks so I get to know them better. The idea is to turn on the automatic appearance of the image. When I see the word ‘pen’, I immediately get a picture of a cup that comes to my mind “.Once the couples learn by heart, move on to the MRI.” There, when the word “pen” is presented to me, I must try to push the image of the cup that appears The young woman explains. Using medical imaging, researchers who study the brain networks involved in post-traumatic stress recall and analyze how trauma affects the brain, its structure, and then its functioning.

Cyceron uses MRI to study the brains of victims in the Remember program. © la Moissonière / RFI

encouraging results

This study will last about six more years. But the first results were published in the journal Science, in February 2020, confirming the hypothesis of the departure of Pierre Janiban. ” The memory of the trauma is like a broken record. The part is recreated in a loop in an obnoxious manner. For a long time, treatments focused on that scratched part of the record. We, what we brought up is that the same tone of voice is also disabled and does not allow you to move forward However, this ‘tone’ can be enhanced, explains the researcher.

Even better, memory control mechanisms can be stimulated without resorting to trauma, by acting on other memories or other parasitic thoughts. In the long-term, the goal of Pierre Gagnepain’s team is to improve care for victims of post-traumatic stress. Currently, treatments given to them, such as EMDR, work on the painful memory to “digest” and relieve it.

«Creating knowledge “in response to the ambiguity of terrorists

Remember, the study was only able to see the light because the victims of November 13, 2015 volunteered, a few months after the attacks. Sophie, who was in the Bataclan pit, did not hesitate to participate. ” I wanted to inspire the fools who shot us. I told myself that we would create knowledge, help others, and better understand PTSD. It’s a great way to do something about the horrors we’ve been through “.In addition, even if this was not the initial goal, participating in this scientific study helped the young woman rebuild herself.” It had a therapeutic effect. You let me take ownership of what was happening to me ».

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This study was born from a momentum that was released three days after the attacks by the head of the CNRS. Then Alan Fox calls on the scientific community to mobilize so that the “positive” emerges from many horrors. Received over 300 responses. About sixty attacks-related projects have been selected and funded in a variety of fields: neurosciences and memory, as well as the humanities and social sciences, chemistry, computer science, and even mathematics.

► Let’s listen also: November 13, 2015 attacks: Is it possible to rebuild?

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