Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders stemming from dysregulated fear memory are problematic and costly. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that contribute to the formation and maintenance of these persistent fear associations is crucial to developing treatments for PTSD. Epigenetic mechanisms, which control gene expression to produce long-lasting changes in cellular function, may support the formation of fear memory underlying PTSD. We address here the role of epigenetic mechanisms in the formation, storage, updating, and extinction of fear memories. We also discuss methods of targeting these epigenetic mechanisms to reduce the initial formation of fear memory or to enhance its extinction. Epigenetic mechanisms may provide a novel target for pharmaceutical and other treatments to reduce aversive memory contributing to PTSD.
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