Xenon induces anesthesia by blocking a molecule in the brain known as the NMDA receptor associated with memory function and as a result the gas may also interfere with memory re-consolidation, a process in which previously stored memories get altered each time they are recalled.

"The fact that we were able to inhibit remembering of a traumatic memory with xenon is very promising because it is currently used in humans for other purposes, and thus it could be re-purposed to treat PTSD," said co-author of the study Marc Kaufman, associate professor of psychiatry from the Harvard Medical School.

For the study, rats were trained to be afraid of sounds that were paired with painful electrical shocks to their feet.

"The investigators found that a single hour-long dose of xenon was enough to reduce rats' fear responses and the effects remained for up to two weeks," Edward Meloni from the Harvard Medical School added.

If future research shows that xenon has the same effects on people's fearful memories, it could potentially be used to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder, Live Science reported.

The findings of the study appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.

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