The act of remembering changes the memory itself. Fascinating neuroscience is unfolding. Applying neuroscience research to treat PTSD is underway. A recent article from Wired Magazine provides an accessible summary. (See more below.)
As the author mentions, this view of the neuroscience of memory could turn standard Critical Incident Stress Debriefing on its head. Although, I would hypothesize that psychotherapy may achieve a similar result as this chemical approach, though perhaps more slowly, by helping people learn to reprogram traumatic memories by remembering the incident while relaxed, thus re-saving it to our brain's memory without the intense trauma element.
It turns out the "observer effect" from physics (often confused with Heisenberg's uncertainty principle) may be a good model for understanding how our memory works and how to change it. The act of observation changes the phenomenon observed. Take the memory out of storage, observe it without the physiological distress, re save it to memory and some of the distress elements have been stripped away in the new saved memory file. Think of it as saving your open "Word" document as the same name as your original file, replacing earlier versions of the file, but in this case, in your brain's memory.
The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever
By Jonah Lehrer February 17, 2012 | 3:44 pm | Categories: Wired March 2012