Is Memory-Erasing Technology a Reality?

Josh Duboff


Could memory-erasing technology be a reality?Could memory-erasing technology be a reality?Anyone who has seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (i.e. anyone who has lived in a dorm at any point during the past decade) has no doubt pondered what it would be like if the science featured in the film-in which memories can be erased-were real. Would you eradicate that afternoon when you asked Stacey Stevens out by the water fountain only to get cruelly rejected? That intensely painful fall from Mark Markham's treehouse that led to four months in a leg cast? And so on.

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Enter some researchers! A group of M.I.T. scientists believe they have discovered the gene which "performs the role of memory extinction." They're hoping that this work could eventually lead to treatment for sufferers of P.T.S.D. or people otherwise tormented by past memories. The process involves new memories "overwriting" old ones. The study-which will be written up in the new edition of Neuron-focused on the observation of mice who had the gene in question (called "Tet1") inhibited. These inhibited mice were (mildly) electric shocked a number of times when they were placed in a cage in an attempt to create an association; but, in comparison to mice who hadn't had the gene blocked, these mice did not fear the cage when they were placed in it subsequent times "because their memory of being hurt had already been replaced by new information." The director of the institute assessed, "If there is a way to significantly boost the expression of these genes, then extinction learning is going to be much more active."

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Wild! Meanwhile, someone better be working on making that remote from Click into an actual thing, as we have been jonesin' for that since 2006.


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