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Could erasing traumatic memories, like in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soon be possible?
Some of the best ideas start as movie plots—in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind the two lead characters underwent a process that erased their memories of one another to help heal the wounds of a bad breakup. Now the idea of memory erasure might become a reality. While a commercial drug remains far off, scientists have laid the foundation with their discovery that proteins can be removed from the brain’s fear center to erase traumatic memories forever. Sure, people could erase memories of bad relationships or nasty run-ins with their in-laws, but there are even more distressing memories that could be treated: from soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder to victims of childhood abuse, the psychological applications of a memory-erasing drug could prove to be significant. There are also significant ethical dilemmas and an argument about whether bad memories are vital to our personal growth and psychological development, no matter how painful they might be. Is a memory-erasing drug a good idea….and would you consider taking it?
Rick Huganir, Professor and Director, Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Skip Rizzo, associate director of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies