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Scientists Erase Specific Memories In Mice 320

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-the-cheese dept.
Ostracus writes "It sounds like science fiction, but scientists say it might one day be possible to erase undesirable memories from the brain, selectively and safely. After exposing mice to emotionally powerful stimuli, such as a mild shock to their paws, the scientists then observed how well or poorly the animals subsequently recalled the particular trauma as their brain's expression of CaMKII was manipulated up and down. When the brain was made to overproduce CaMKII at the exact moment the mouse was prodded to retrieve the traumatic memory, the memory wasn't just blocked, it appeared to be fully erased."
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Scientists Erase Specific Memories In Mice

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  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:02AM (#25480339)
    How long until ethically underfunded governments decided to "offer relief" from "dangerous memories" to their political detractors? Happy shiny people, indeed.
  • by cosmocain (1060326) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:07AM (#25480361)

    [...]erase undesirable memories[...]

    undesirable for whom? While this might positively applicaple for e.g. victims of rape there are tons of possible missuses which really should be feared.

  • Re:Goatse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cosmocain (1060326) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:15AM (#25480421)

    All memory of Goatse could be erased! That has to count for SOMETHING.

    Jup. It does.

    Being shocked by goatse the same amount as if seeing it for the first time. Great. Hooray.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:26AM (#25480491)

    The tortured person may wonder how their fingernails got ripped off though.

  • Enforceable NDA's (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:30AM (#25480509) Homepage

    So soon we will have truly enforceable NDA's.

  • Re:Goatse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:50AM (#25480633) Homepage
    and then you'd likely be rickrolled to it again and again. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
  • Self-amputation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Big Nemo '60 (749108) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:51AM (#25480637) Journal

    Maybe I am just grouchy but...

    Even for traumatic memories, I would choose healing and closure over forgetfulness anytime. I may like it or not, but I am the sum of all the things I experienced, and I am not looking forward to self-amputation.

    On the other hand, I understand that achieving healing and closure is a very inefficient process - just being able to erase unpleasant experiences would probably set us free to pursue more worthy achievements, like making the current global economic breakdown ever worse...

    Again, sorry for ranting.

  • by scubamage (727538) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:11AM (#25480811)
    Just sayin. Clementine was farking hot.
  • by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t@gmail. c o m> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:26AM (#25480953)
    > While this might positively applicaple for e.g. victims

    My life was far from painless, but I regret no single decision and want no memory to definitely fade away. I treat every unpleasant moment, every "evil" done to me as a lesson, and forgetting what I've learned would be like... devolution. It's my personal point of view, but I believe that everything that ever happened to someone, had happened for a reason.
  • by ashtophoenix (929197) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:29AM (#25480981) Homepage Journal
    Call it nature, call it whatever, but there exists already a mechanism that erases memories selectively, or moves them to the sub-conscience. Many times, things that we've seemingly forgotten resurface after many years. Painful as well as happy memories diminish over time. Isn't this a mechanism that is in place already? Who is to say that the individual can select better what he/she needs to remember or needs to forget? Most people would screw themselves up if given such a power. We don't understand the mind, psyche enough, leave alone sub-conscience and such.
  • by Techguy666 (759128) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:33AM (#25481007)

    Another "positive" application?

    Once this gets into pill or injectable form, I'd imagine governments and military organizations will have spotless human rights records.

  • by Thiez (1281866) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:35AM (#25481047)

    Why not remove the middle-man and take a pill that makes you happy? Let's be honest that is what your suggestion is all about.

  • by Grave (8234) <awalbert88@hoTIGERtmail.com minus cat> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:37AM (#25481059)

    And this is precisely why nobody should want to have a memory erased. No matter how painful, each thing that has happened to us has shaped us into who we are today. Change one thing in your past, even the memory of one thing, and you can become a totally different person. The lessons you learn from bad experiences are very valuable, and are worth far more than relieving the pain of that memory.

  • what's goatse.cx? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:58AM (#25481321)

    There are many memories that I would like to erase but I would like to also retain my memory of what it is I don't want to look at. What's the use of eradicating the distended anus from my mind if I go and innocently follow a goatse.cx link again? I'd rather it be like 2 girls 1 cup, I found out what that was before I ever clicked on it, thank Cthulhu.

    Maybe we could implant a post-hypnotic warning in our brains, like when Gandalf tried to touch the One Ring and got the warning flash of evil in his brain? So if I mouse over to a link leading to 4chan I'll feel a cloud of evil pass over my mind and know not to click.

  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @10:33AM (#25481749)
    Not to quote Star Trek too much, but painful memories are just as important as happy ones. They help shape who we are, and removing those painful memories, probably diminish the happy ones we do have. "The sweet is never as sweet without the sour." We're slowly becoming a society that simply wants to take the easy way out. It just doesn't work that way. There are always consequences to our actions, 100% of the time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2008 @11:08AM (#25482291)

    Part of what makes war a "last resort" option is the horror that it causes. If we removed the pain of war, perhaps it would become far to easy to wage it.

    Unfortunately, this has already happened. There was a time when the leaders didn't "send" soldiers off to war, they "led" them. Today, no leader will ever see a battlefield, so the pain and horror of war no longer deters leaders from starting wars.

    War hasn't been a "last resort" for a very long time. All too often it's the first resort.

  • Sobering (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UnixUnix (1149659) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @12:45PM (#25483653) Homepage
    Ok, we joke about it, recall (!?) "Total recall" or "Men in black"... but if this is or becomes truly possible for humans it would be unimaginably dangerous and frightening. Our memory IS us, much more than a foot, a leg or an eye. Removing it is indeed "crippling" in the worst way imaginable, and it is no consolation that the victim might not be aware after the deed of what happened. It is indeed abstractly equivalent to no less than murder.
  • by Mister_Stoopid (1222674) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:18PM (#25484153)
    I'm not so sure the whole "robotic war" scenario holds up to reality... As an example let's say that in the year 2500 Techno-Hitler raises a cylon army and decides to follow in his great-great-(etc)-grandfather's footsteps. If we lose enough robo-troops that we can no longer effectively fight that way, I'm not going to just roll over and say "welp, we lost, guess I better start my life as a slave. Time to start mining Dilithium for the glory of Space-Germany!" In my opinion the losing side of a war will usually end up suffering real human casualties even if both sides do have robotic fighters.
  • by mdielmann (514750) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:23PM (#25484225) Homepage Journal

    I wonder how many crusaders, people spending their lives to right the injustices of the world, there would be if they could just remove those troublesome memories and go on with their lives. Would there be anything left to motivate us to make the world a better place?

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:27PM (#25484287) Journal

    They did not erase anything. They PREVENTED.

    What they prevented was an association of the memory for the event and the "trauma", which is pain. They tested for reactions associated with the pain. Some say there is no memory for pain, only for painful events. I disagree in that some people retain some memory of pain, and a few retain it well, while most retain memory of the event and have an association to an implicit (non-conscious) memory of pain. They managed to prevent more so what often doesn't happen anyway.

    The only thing they *could* have tested was association to the pain. To test for the memory of the event they'd have had to ask the mice what they recalled. I'm pretty sure they didn't. Doing so would imply they expected the mice to answer.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:35PM (#25491423)

    There was a time when the leaders didn't "send" soldiers off to war, they "led" them.

    And yet, that never seemed to deter them. In fact, many of them appeared to have enjoyed it immensely. Note that even in that era, the leader would have the best armor, the best weapons, and be surrounded by a unit of his most elite troops. Getting yourself killed or seriously injured was not completely unknown, but was pretty rare.

    War hasn't been a "last resort" for a very long time.

    War has never been a "last resort". I'd argue that it's actually as a general rule less lightly entered into today than at any time before in history. Although one can certainly say that there are a lot of people who still find it the preferred option.

Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue. - Seneca

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