This is not a joke!
Scientists have found a way to erase specific memories from the human mind. Before you continue reading this, let me inform you that this post doesn’t evaluate the researches of these scientists. I don’t think we need to discuss how good or bad a turn of events it could lead to but just appreciate for once the human mind as researched by them. Are we clear?
Excerpts from the page :
“… In recent years, CISD [Critical Incident Stress Debriefing. The central idea of CISD : People who survive a painful event should express their feelings soon after so the memory isn’t “sealed over” and repressed, which could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder i.e. PTSD.] has become exceedingly popular, used by the US Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Israeli army, the United Nations, and the American Red Cross. …”
“A typical CISD session lasts about three hours and involves a trained facilitator who encourages people involved to describe the event from their perspective in as much detail as possible. Facilitators are trained to probe deeply and directly, asking questions such as, what was the worst part of the incident for you personally? The underlying assumption is that a way to ease a traumatic memory is to express it.”
“The problem is, CISD rarely helps — and recent studies show it often makes things worse. In one, burn victims were randomly assigned to receive either CISD or no treatment at all. A year later, those who went through a debriefing were more anxious and depressed and nearly three times as likely to suffer from PTSD. …”
“… as a treatment, CISD misapprehends how memory works. It suggests that the way to get rid of a bad memory, or at a minimum denude it of its negative emotional connotations, is to talk it out. … Since the time of the ancient Greeks, people have imagined memories to be a stable form of information that persists reliably. … Once a memory is formed, we assume that it will stay the same. This, in fact, is why we trust our recollections. They feel like indelible portraits of the past. “
“None of this is true. In the past decade, scientists have come to realize that our memories are not inert packets of data and they don’t remain constant. Even though every memory feels like an honest representation, that sense of authenticity is the biggest lie of all. … New research is showing that every time we recall an event, the structure of that memory in the brain is altered in light of the present moment, warped by our current feelings and knowledge. That’s why pushing to remember a traumatic event so soon after it occurs doesn’t unburden us; it reinforces the fear and stress that are part of the recollection.”
Now here comes the experiment which changed it all.
Karim Nader, a neuroscientist “taught several dozen rats to associate a loud noise with a mild but painful electric shock. It terrified them — whenever the sound played, the rats froze in fear, anticipating the shock. After reinforcing this memory for several weeks, Nader hit the rats with the noise once again, but this time he then injected their brains with a chemical that inhibited protein synthesis. Then he played the sound again. “I couldn’t believe what happened,” Nader says. “The fear memory was gone. The rats had forgotten everything.” The absence of fear persisted even after the injection wore off.
The secret was the timing: If new proteins couldn’t be created during the act of remembering, then the original memory ceased to exist. The erasure was also exceedingly specific. The rats could still learn new associations, and they remained scared of other sounds associated with a shock but that hadn’t been played during the protein block. They forgot only what they’d been forced to remember while under the influence of the protein inhibitor.
The disappearance of the fear memory suggested that every time we think about the past we are delicately transforming its cellular representation in the brain, changing its underlying neural circuitry. It was a stunning discovery: Memories are not formed and then pristinely maintained, as neuroscientists thought; they are formed and then rebuilt every time they’re accessed. … The brain isn’t interested in having a perfect set of memories about the past … Instead, memory comes with a natural updating mechanism … That might make our memories less accurate, but it probably also makes them more relevant to the future …”
“Every memory begins as a changed set of connections among cells in the brain. If you happen to remember this moment — the content of this sentence — it’s because a network of neurons has been altered, woven more tightly together within a vast electrical fabric. This linkage is literal: For a memory to exist, these scattered cells must become more sensitive to the activity of the others, so that if one cell fires, the rest of the circuit lights up as well. … Collectively this … is called the consolidation phase, when the circuit of cells representing a memory is first linked together. Regardless of the molecular details, it’s clear that even minor memories require major work. The past has to be wired into your hardware.”
” … The memory is less like a movie, a permanent emulsion of chemicals on celluloid, and more like a play — subtly different each time it’s performed. In my brain, a network of cells is constantly being reconsolidated, rewritten, remade. That two-letter prefix changes everything.“
“Memory Erasure: How It Works:
Step 1 : Pick a memory.
It has to be something deeply implanted in the brain, a long-term memory that has undergone a process called consolidation — a restructuring of neural connections.
Step 2 : Recall requires neural connections by protein synthesis.
To remember something, your brain synthesizes new proteins to stabilize circuits of neural connections. To date, researchers have identified one such protein, called PKMzeta. Before trying to erase the targeted memory, researchers would ensure that it was ensconced by having the patient write down an account of the event or retell it aloud several times.
Step 3 : Nuke the memory.
To delete the memory, researchers would administer a drug that blocks PKMzeta and then ask the patient to recall the event again. Because the protein required to reconsolidate the memory will be absent, the memory will cease to exist. Neuroscientists think they’ll be able to target the specific memory by using drugs that bind selectively to receptors found only in the correct area of the brain.
Step 4 : Everything else is fine.
If the drug is selective enough and the memory precise enough, everything else in the brain should be unaffected and remain as correct — or incorrect — as ever.”
” … We want the past to persist, because the past gives us permanence. It tells us who we are and where we belong. But what if your most cherished recollections are also the most ephemeral thing in your head? … “
“Shortly after the September 11 attacks, a team of psychologists … surveyed several hundred subjects about their memories of that awful day. The scientists then repeated the surveys, tracking how the stories steadily decayed. At one year out, 37 percent of the details had changed. By 2004 that number was approaching 50 percent. Some changes were innocuous — the stories got tighter and the narratives more coherent — but other adjustments involved a wholesale retrofit. Some people even altered where they were when the towers fell. Over and over, the act of repeating the narrative seemed to corrupt its content. … What’s most troubling … is that these people have no idea their memories have changed this much … The strength of the emotion makes them convinced it’s all true, even when it’s clearly not.”
“Re-consolidation provides a mechanistic explanation for these errors. It’s why eyewitness testimony shouldn’t be trusted … why every memoir should be classified as fiction, and why it’s so disturbingly easy to implant false recollections. … nearly a third of subjects can be tricked into claiming a made-up memory as their own. It takes only a single exposure to a new fiction for it to be reconsolidated as fact … “
“… the fact is we already tweak our memories — we just do it badly. Re-consolidation constantly alters our recollections, as we rehearse nostalgias and suppress pain. We repeat stories until they’re stale, rewrite history in favor of the winners, and tamp down our sorrows with whiskey. “Once people realize how memory actually works, a lot of these beliefs that memory shouldn’t be changed will seem a little ridiculous,” Nader says. “Anything can change memory. This technology isn’t new. It’s just a better version of an existing biological process.” … “
For full article refer here.
I hope you’re as awed as I was when I first read this!
P.S. : Any guesses why I landed up searching for this on Google in the first place? 😉
I’d appreciate your comments if this article caught your interest. It’ll encourage me to share more such ground breaking stuff when I come across it.