Memories are maintained by chemicals between cells and AMPA receptors

The more AMPA receptors there are, the stronger the memory

Memories are wiped when cells remove these receptors 

Over time, if the memory is not recalled, the receptors decrease and the memory is gradually erased

Vital clues about how the brain erases long-term memories have been uncovered by researchers.

The study reveals how forgetting can be the result of an ‘active deletion process’ – similar to moving a computer file to a virtual bin –  rather than a failure to remember.

And the findings may help point towards new ways of tackling memory loss associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The findings could also help scientists to understand why some unwanted memories are so long-lasting – such as those of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders.

Memories are maintained by chemical signalling between brain cells that relies on specialised receptors called AMPA receptors.

The more AMPA receptors there are on the surface where brain cells connect, the stronger the memory.

The team led by the University of Edinburgh found that the process of actively wiping memories happens when brain cells remove AMPA receptors from the connections between brain cells.