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.
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?