In Search of Lost Memories

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Memory is not a fixed, static impression left on a person’s brain. Researchers have found that “the very act of remembering could change the memory,” Joseph LeDoux writes for the Scientist. Using that knowledge, his colleagues are working on ways that specific memories could be simply erased from people’s brains. LeDoux asks, “Could traumatic memories be dampened or erased simply by remembering?”

The research is already leading to experiments in lessening post traumatic stress disorder using drugs, as reported on Many have worry about the ethical implications of messing with people’s memories, but according to LeDoux, patients who suffer from reactions to memories they can’t control have said that they would rather risk losing a memory or two if it meant being able to remove the debilitating ones.”

People wouldn’t need to stop at bad memories, Greg Beato writes for Reason. Erasing the good memories from people’s brains could make life a lot more enjoyable. “Imagine falling in love for the first time, again and again and again,” Beato writes, “hearing your all-time favorite album with completely fresh ears; rediscovering the virtues of martinis.” People would no longer get bored with their jobs, their spouses, their music collections, and could continue to experience life as if for the first time.

Sources: The Scientist (subscription required), Reason

Image by Sergio Tudela, licensed under Creative Commons.

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