Painful Memories? Take This Drug

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Would life be better if we could erase our most painful memories?

I can think of many I’d be — literally — happier without: two horrible Christmas Eves; the night my ex-husband walked out for good; a few really terrifying and unsuccessful job interviews.

We’ve all got some, scarred for life and sometimes truly hampered by their lingering effects.

It may become possible, says one American scientist, who may have found a way to do it.

Reports Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

The experiment proved that [certain] proteins are essential to building the brain circuitry that forms a memory, and to recalling the memory later. “It’s a huge step forward,” says Joseph E. LeDoux, a professor at New York University and an authority on memory and emotions.

Huganir and Clem are now experimenting with a drug that removes AMPARs and could prevent memories from forming in the first place. They hope to publish the results next year, and Huganir says that in as little as a decade the research could lead to drugs that help people forget painful experiences. Blocking AMPARs won’t erase the entire memory of an event, says Huganir, but it would eliminate the strong emotions attached to it. That could be a game-changer for the nearly 8 million American adults with post-traumatic stress disorder. Huganir says he regularly gets e-mails from PTSD sufferers asking to be part of human drug trials if and when he holds them. His research may also lead to drugs that aid memory retention by stimulating AMPARs, a potential boon for test takers and Alzheimer’s patients.

Would we all be better off without our sad or traumatic memories?

What if we did get rid of them?

How would we behave differently?

5 thoughts on “Painful Memories? Take This Drug

  1. Ineresting stuff! I would want to get rid of any of my memories, I wouln’t be ‘me’ without all of them.

    I am intrigued about the idea of inhibiting emotional attachments to bad ones, though. That would have helped my confidence as a younger person, I suspect. Than again, how I felt and dealt with certain things back informs my adult life now, so it’s give and take.

    As for the memory retention drugs, I wish my Grandmother could have made it to the trials, but anything that eases evil Alzheimer’s for present and future people is OK by me.

    Thanks for posting this, and on another note, Happy New Year!

  2. Lisa

    We are our memories, both good and bad. While I recognize the value of this for sufferers of PTSD, even those traumatic experiences make them who they are. Perhaps, if their is no hope of them ever moving beyond the pain, it would be a good choice. My recent experience with some Veterans in my classes that all suffered with varying degrees of PTSD was illuminating. The most severe case, however, was learning to manage his life and take the lessons to move forward. I wonder who he would be or would become without those memories.

    I am watching as my father slowly fades away into the depths of Alzheimer’s. While he is controlled at the moment, he occasionally slips into moments where he is in the past not the present. I don’t know if those are good memories or bad, but without them there would be nothing left. To me that is very sad.

  3. Lisa, what a moving comment…Thanks….I know, having interviewed veterans and their families, how searing PTSD can be…yet your Dad’s experience is equally powerful.

    It raises fascinating questions about what we value and how it affects us throughout our lives. Memories that are unbearable at the time (like my husband bailing on our brief marriage!) can transmute quite significantly over time into something less ugly and perhaps instructive.

  4. Lisa

    I think it is just a matter of trusting in our ability to move through the pain and learn the lessons that come from it. As much as this old saying makes me cringe, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I know that my recent life is filled with things I would rather forget, but at the same those things are taking me in interesting directions. In the future will I look back at them and wish I could completely forget? Or will I look back and say, I’ve led an interesting life, not an easy one but an interesting one?

  5. All true…I know that many of the most difficult issues in my life have shaped my worldview and my writing.

    My life has been far from easy, but, like yours, interesting and challenging. Going through adversity will make or break you, and painful memories will shape how we handle adversity, I think.

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