Erasing bad memories made possible in mice; could forgetting an ex be next?
For anyone who's ever wished she could completely forget she'd ever met her ex (and really, who hasn't felt this way at some point?), relief might be on the horizon.
American and Chinese researchers working together at a neural research facility in Georgia have discovered that flooding the brain of mice with a particular protein vital to learning and memory retention can selectively erase memory. While the mice are in the process of repeating an activity or encountering a toy they've already seen, simultaneously adding a burst of the protein leaves virtually no memory of the instance or object. All without otherwise harming brain function.
Sound familiar? Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey played ex-lovers who each had memories of the other erased in 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. While anyone who's seen the film knows how well that worked out for them, scientists say translating the memory erasure process from mice to humans is still "many steps removed."
Memory deletion could certainly have its cons. Science fiction has captured most of the pitfalls that widespread access to a memory-deleting treatment could bring (just imagine if the memory-erasing neuralyzer from the Men in Black films were to end up in a villian's hands), not to mention the value of learning from our past mistakes. Alternatively, according to Yahoo! News, erasing haunting memories could be a useful antidote for conditions like post traumatic stress disorder. We add "post 'what did I ever see in him?' disorder" to that list, too.
There is some cosmic principle that suggests we are forced to repeat the same mistakes until we learn the lesson they carry. So, maybe even with a fancy memory zapper in reach, using the standard breakup Rx is better than having to relive your first broken heart again and again.