Researchers say you can now erase painful memories
Negative memories from bad breakups, loss of a loved one or traumatic experiences can haunt us for the rest of our lives and cause anxiety, depression, phobia, and even trigger post-traumatic disorder. But through a groundbreaking discovery by scientists, painful memories don’t have to be as crippling as they were before.
Researchers have actually found a way to erase, alter, and even implant memories in humans. With the advances in neurological scanning technologies in the past decades, it seems that the things seen in science fiction movies like Total Recall and Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind may soon turn into a reality.
Memories are formed when proteins stimulate our brain cells in order to form and grow new connections. However, long-term memories aren’t stable. Each time we revisit a memory, it becomes malleable again and is rebooted stronger and more vividly than before. The process is actually known as reconsolidation, which scientists take advantage of in order to ”hack” our memories.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Richard Gray said, “The research suggests memories can be manipulated because they act as if made from glass, existing in a molten state as they are being created, before turning solid.”
“When the memory is recalled, however, it becomes molten again and so can be altered before it once more resets,” Gray added.
Norepinephrine, a chemical involved in flight or fight response and is responsible for triggering symptoms such as a racing heart and sweaty palms, can be blocked to “dampen” painful memories and prevent them from being associated with negative emotions.
In 2015, researchers from Netherlands blocked norepinephrine using a drug called propranolol in order to take away arachnophobes’ fear of spiders.
The same drug was also used in 2007 to improve memories of a traumatic event on participants. Although participants given propranolol didn’t exactly forget the experience, they experienced less stress when recounting the event after receiving the drug.