It may be possible to erase bad memories

A growing body of evidence, dating back to the late 1960s, suggests that we can lessen the emotional blow of negative memories (and even get rid of them altogether) months and years after those memories originally formed. The key is that memories seem to be vulnerable to manipulation and erasure as you're recalling them, not just at the time of creation. The newest research — and some of the most convincing to date — used electroconvulsive therapy to effectively remove the details of traumatizing stories from the minds of healthy volunteers. Virginia Hughes has a story about the newest study at her blog:

Schiller’s experiments have also bolstered the reconsolidation hypothesis. She has shown, for example, that if people recall a fearful memory and then go through ‘extinction learning’ — meaning that they’re shown the fearful stimulus over and over again without any pain — they can erase the emotional sting of the memory. Other groups have shown something similar by giving people propranolol, a beta-blocker, immediately after recalling a memory.

The new study adds ECT to the list. There are still a lot of questions. For example, it’s not clear how ECT is disrupting reconsolidation. Or if it’s doing it at all: The effect could be partly or wholly due to anesthesia, though the researchers say this is unlikely. Most importantly, no one knows whether the procedure would work with old, real memories, as opposed to those artificially created in the lab.

Notable Replies

  1. NickyG says:

    I've wished on a number of occasions to be able to pull an Eternal Sunshine on several ex-girlfriends. Please let this be a reality soon! Goodbye Kelly, goodbye Anna. wink

  2. You just got to go after those memories fast enough.

  3. Is it better to erase bad memories or better to face the pain head on and overcome them? I know from experience how traumatizing life can be, but overcoming these dark moments rather than burying them is what give us a chance to develop a richer character and become better, more compassionate people.

  4. I use an interesting 'superfluid' called rum. Does the trick.

  5. NickyG says:

    I'm talking about erasing them from my memory, not vice versa. I'm pretty sure they've already done the reverse!

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