A Bad Memory Erasing Pill

The February issue of Wired magazine contained an article about an interesting medical breakthrough related to memory. Scientists working on the development of a pill that can erase bad memories have achieved success in laboratory rats.

memory erasing pill

Bad memories, a thing of the past?

It is a long and detailed article, but I will try to summarize it in a few sentences. Memories are stored in different parts of the brian, emotions in one part, visuals in another etc. In order to remember something a sort of chain must be formed that link the separate parts of the memory, a chain formed by protein. If you can block the protein you can block access to the memory.

Scientists have been experimenting for decades to try and find a compound that can do this, and recently seem to have found one that works on rats. The experiment is relatively simple, the rats are exposed to series that they learn to recognize, an example might be a series of musical notes followed by a painful electric shock. As soon as the rats hear the first note in the series they get scared and agitated. Administer the compound and the association is lost, you can play the series and the rats no longer remember the consequences until BANG, the shock arrives.

Cruel but bearing important consequences, if the links in the chain can be broken then the memory is not cancelled but the individual no longer has access to it.

As I said above different parts of the memory are stored in different places, so the hope is that different compounds will be able to delete different aspects of painful memories. One might close access to the memory of the scent of an ex girlfriend who left you for your best mate, or the pain experienced in an accident, or the vision of your dog jumping out of your third floor bedroom window while chasing a ball that you accidentally threw too hard for him to catch, or other such traumas.

Talk is of selected memory loss by pill, but of course this is far in the future if ever at all, but the very prospect raises some interesting ethical dilemmas. We are who we are by experience. I don’t play with knives; I have a scar with 7 stitches in my hand to remind me why, but even without it the memory of a Christmas Eve trip to Wythenshawe Hospital lingers on.

And having seen various governments conduct more than questionable research on their own populations (and others) and I am not just talking about despot regimes but the very birth states of democracy themselves as this apology given by President Obama demonstrates, I sincerely question the ethics behind such a development.

So the question is this, are we seeing a great medical and technological breakthrough, a leap in human advancement, or the creation of another dangerous tool once it gets into the wrong hands?

6 thoughts on “A Bad Memory Erasing Pill

    • I am sure they are, but it might be a very useful tool if they can develop a way of blocking access to traumatic memories that can make it unable for a person to function in society.

    • And because of that the research should stop?

      If we’re going to follow that logic a LOT of researches should stop, but what’s development and progress all about? New findings, new researches, new results that make our life better, and better.

      Granted, many researches fail, but that’s a price to pay with development – you don’t know for sure, but you can’t back off just because of that, else all progress would minimize and slow down. As Jonny Hankins said, if people with traumatic memories can be helped in getting rid of past memories, it’d be very useful and well worth it.

      • I think there is a fine line to be trod between all of these issues. The good of society vs possibly damaging outcomes, the use of resources for one thing and not another, the moral imperative to proceed while trying to minimize all of the negative aspects involved in scientific research, from animal use to unethical or dubious practices. And this is my interest and why I blog and write about what I write.

  1. paul holland@keywords

    I really hope they make this pill would do anything to foget traumas of my past would mean i could move on but dout will ever be able to afford it so guess my only option will be to one day die cause its the only peice i will ever have

    • Christopher (admin team)

      Really Paul, you want to forget events from your life?

      I think it is important we remember the bad points in out life, they are part of our character and help us to avoid mistakes in the future.

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