Remember the movie, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind? Well, experts conducted studies on mice, demonstrating that fearful memories prompted by a sound associated with an electric shock could be turned off and on.
At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston, Professor Sheena Josselyn detailed how they were able to erase traumatic memories in the brain.
Queen of memory manipulation, Professor Sheena Josselyn (c) quantamagazine
“So we can target where in the brain a memory has gone,” she said.
“We can then decrease the activity in these cells … And it is as if we erase the memory.”
The researchers said it will be possible at some point in the future, to use the technique in some cases. For example, to treat people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or drug addiction.
“We can turn memory on and turn memory off,” Professor Josselyn said.
“It really does give us proof of principle. If there’s a memory problem, we don’t have to target the entire body or the entire brain.”
Professor Josselyn said it was possible that in the future scientists could develop “a heat-seeking missile or a heat-seeking drug that would somehow operate on just the cells important for this memory”.
“We can erase a fearful memory in mice, suggesting in people there might be a way of targeting just those cells that are important in just this traumatic memory, perhaps getting rid of this traumatic memory.”
However, Professor Eichenbaum cautioned that there were a limited number of brain cells involved in such memories and killing off one memory might damage others.
Eichenbaum said in a statement,
“If this memory was particularly severe and was destroying your life, that might be a reasonable compromise.”
Memory manipulation gained ethical issues (c) doctortipster
When asked about ethical considerations, Professor Josselyn said she did not see a future in which brain cells would be killed off to remove memories.
“The ethics are a really important question. I think we are the sum total of our memories,” she said.
“We all learn from our mistakes. If we erase the memory of our mistakes, what is to keep us from repeating them?”
However, she added, “For something that really interferes with your everyday life, I think a treatment that targets just those cells could be appropriate.”
Source: The Telegraph