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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 @07:02AM (#25480339)
    How long until ethically underfunded governments decided to "offer relief" from "dangerous memories" to their political detractors? Happy shiny people, indeed.
  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:07AM (#25480359)

    When do I get my own flashy-little-memory-messer-upper-thing?

  • by cosmocain (1060326) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:07AM (#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.

    • Goatse (Score:5, Funny)

      by mfh (56) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:12AM (#25480399) Homepage Journal

      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.

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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ideonode (163753)

      While this might positively applicaple

      I tell you where else this would be a positive thing - in erasing the memory of good books/films/video games, so that you can experience them all again as if for the first time. I would love to be able to re-experience the magic of reading some of my favorite fiction as if for the first time.

      • by PotatoFiend (1330299) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:53AM (#25480671)

        I tell you where else this would be a positive thing - in erasing the memory of good books/films/video games, so that you can experience them all again as if for the first time. I would love to be able to re-experience the magic of reading some of my favorite fiction as if for the first time.

        Holly: I've just finished reading everything. I've now read everything that's been written by anyone ever.
        Lister: Would you go away?
        Holly: You know what the worst book ever written by anyone ever was?
        Lister: I don't care!
        Holly: "Football, It's a Funny Old Game" by Kevin Keegan.
        ...snip...
        Holly: Well, only if you're not busy. Would you mind erasing some of my memory banks?
        Lister: What for?
        Holly: Well, if you erase all the Agatha Christie novels from my memory bank, I can read 'em again tonight.
        Lister: How do I do it?
        Holly: Just type, "Holmem. Password override. The novels Christie, Agatha." Then press erase.
        Lister: I've done it.
        Holly: Done what?
        Lister: Erased Agatha Christie.
        Holly: Who's she, then?
        Lister: Holly, you just asked me to erase all Agatha Christie novels from your memory.
        Holly: Why should I do that? I've never heard of her.
        Lister: You've never heard of her because I've just erased her from your smegging memory.
        Holly: What'd you do that for?
        Lister: You asked me to!
        Holly: When?
        Lister: Just now!
        Holly: I don't remember this.

      • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:09AM (#25480799) Journal

        I would love to be able to re-experience the magic of reading some of my favorite fiction as if for the first time.

        I'd much rather experience the magic of something genuinely new.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thiez (1281866)

        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.

    • It might not be so positive for the rape victim. If she can't remember being raped, then how the hell did she get pregnant? Where did those bruises come from? And why does she now have HIV?

      Also, why do people from the district attorney's office keep coming by and asking her to testify? Testify to what?

    • by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t.gmail@com> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:26AM (#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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grave (8234)

        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.

    • by Techguy666 (759128) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:33AM (#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 LingNoi (1066278)

      I don't even see a use for this for rape victims.

      If a victim took this then it could be taking away the only evidence against someone. Even if they know who has done it, why would you want to forget that just to have the same guy or go to the same place and get raped again?!

  • by kesuki (321456) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:08AM (#25480363) Journal

    being wiped by the cia, the nsa or homeland security, we've got the link to prove it.

    ah, i feel vindicated. one of my paranoid thoughts is that people have their memories wiped of certain things they've done, knowing that science has reproduced it in mice means time travelers from the future could easily have been doing it for years now.

    well, just as soon as the time machine gets proved to be possible. quantum physics is dangerously close to that with 'particles being everywhere all at once, until observed.' how can a quantum particle like a photon be everywhere all at once, until observed, unless time travel is also possible on the quantum level.

    • by Scutter (18425)

      ah, i feel vindicated. one of my paranoid thoughts is that people have their memories wiped of certain things they've done

      How do you know it hasn't already been done to you?

      • by kesuki (321456) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:21AM (#25480465) Journal

        ah but that's the thing, i lost about 6 months all told of memory.

        the doctor wasn't really up on his paranoid schizophrenia, and he said that the memories were probably repressed. no, no they weren't they were gone completely.

        the last time it happened i only lost 3 days, i was on a different medicine then though, and there are some files of what i said and did that are very weird. my explanation for what happened was hackers broke into my computer and used the wifi connection to directly control my thoughts. i don't bring that up to my doctor of course. wifi is everywhere, and hacked computers are a dime a dozen. which lead to my going all hard wired internet with hardened firewalls that are half-open and have specific configurations settings for each pc and each os that connects to the hardened firewalls, and oh i don't run my computers at night.

        but the doctor just thinks i am a computer hypochondriac, in addition to being paranoid schizophrenic.

  • My Wife... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Smivs (1197859) <smivs@smivsonline.co.uk> on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:08AM (#25480367) Homepage Journal

    has the ability to selectively forget anything inconvenient!

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:09AM (#25480369) Journal

    It sounds like science fiction, but scientists say it might one day be possible to erase undesirable memories from the brain, selectively and safely.

    Screw that. I want to erase desirable memories from people's brains. Think how easy it would be to make office workers stay later when they can't remember any of the good stuff that happens when they leave the office?

    Or for shits and giggles, how about removing all traces of memories of sex for the unwed father of a child? Would make the paternity suit industry tons of coin, I bet.

    But enough of the super-villain type stuff.

    How abvout erasing the memory of the first time you had warm apple pie? Then, you get to try it for the first time every night.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Spazztastic (814296)

      How abvout erasing the memory of the first time you had warm apple pie? Then, you get to try it for the first time every night.

      I was thinking of something a little different... but whatever floats your boat, man.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Red Flayer (890720)

        I was thinking of something a little different... but whatever floats your boat, man.

        Ah, so you caught the allegory. It wasn't unintended.

      • You want to be unpracticed, unlearned, and untutored in the fine arts at every single performance!? What's wrong with you?

    • by kesuki (321456) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:36AM (#25480543) Journal

      "Or for shits and giggles, how about removing all traces of memories of sex for the unwed father of a child? Would make the paternity suit industry tons of coin, I bet."

      the 1990's called, we use DNA to figure out who isn't cleaning up their dog poophttp://idle.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/09/17/160246&from=rss [slashdot.org], paternity suits likewise are solved with DNA tests.

      perhaps if you time traveled back to the 1950's in a time machine with 3 other scientists and crash landed in new mexico, you would find a use for the drug in paternity suits. but how to market something that scientifically can't be proven to work? since the science that makes it possible makes it obsolete (for paternity tests at least)?

      or perhaps after the 1970's that failed time travel experiment from the 1950's would result in a government using the super secret modern tech needed to make such a drug possible that they retrieved from a 'weather balloon' and would widely use it to control the nation and wind up with a huge massive government that has to tax everyone and is still ten trillion dollars in debt, because mass producing all that memory wiping drug is expensive so more an more memories need to be wiped, and perhaps people become resistant to the drug after being flooded with it all their lives...

      • the 1990's called, we use DNA to figure out who isn't cleaning up their dog poophttp://idle.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/09/17/160246&from=rss, paternity suits likewise are solved with DNA tests.

        Who cares how it's solved? The point is that if the fathers don't remember having sex with the mother, there are likely to be more paternity suits than there are now, since the fathers will deny responsibility... which means more coin for the paternity suit industry.

        • by kesuki (321456)

          ahh, i didn't see the lawyer connection, in there. so the idea is to make load of money for lawyers by having men refuse to be dna tested in paternity suits.

          so how do lawyers find these guys? go to bars and instead of slipping em extasy slip them a little 'forget me' pill and then goad them into recalling the babe they got in the sack last night?

          perhaps you should have stuck to the

          step 1: become a paternity lawyer
          step 2: find a one night stander in a bar
          step 3: give him a forget recalled memory pill in his

        • I was thinking it'd be a better idea to use it on the mothers.... ;)
    • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:43AM (#25480595) Homepage

      I could get excited about The Phantom Menace all over again!

      • by Emb3rz (1210286)

        Child's play. We could all forget Jar-Jar!

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I could get excited about The Phantom Menace all over again!

        Think of all the potential disappointment which could await you in life if you could re-experience the let down of that movie new every week or so!!

        We could erase all memory of Uwe Boll and his movies and let you experience the suck all over again.

        I figure the absolute best use for it is to make kids fall for "pull my finger" more often. Send 'em to bed, scramble their brains, wake 'em up in the morning, bam -- hit 'em when they don't expect it!!

    • by VShael (62735)

      Or erasing all those Agatha Christie stories, so that you could re-read them again?

    • I wouldn't mind having this for movies. If you see a really, great, awesome movie that blew you away, you can erase your memory of it, watch it again and get blown away again!

      HOLY SHIT! He's Kaiser Soze?!?!?!?!?

      I would be more willing to watch trailers if I knew I could erase all memories of them before watching the actual movie. Right now I religiously avoid trailers for movies I want to see because they spoil plot points, ruin funny moments, etc, etc. But if it was "here's a good summary of the movie. W

    • by sam0737 (648914)

      Did you say they are bringing making the kiddie porn legal again?

  • Does anyone else find this scarily similar to how it worked in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

    Also, it isn't "welcoming our new selectively amnesiac rodent overloads." It's "I for one am welcoming our memory-erasing government sponsored scientist overlords."

  • basicly you can get all information out of someone with this technique.

    you "just" torture them to get the information and wipe their memories of the interogation and do whatever you want with the aquired information. you can even let the subject loose and observe some more, knowing what you've learned from interogating the subject.

  • by thermian (1267986) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:23AM (#25480477)

    What with humans being rather complex, mentally, Information may not be stored only once, or it could be fragmented.

    The only way to selectively destroy memory would be to track down all instances of it, which I would say is pretty unlikely in the human brain. Same goes for most other primates.

    Amnesiacs typically have a non uniform memory loss. Some things they can recall, but not others. Two people with identical brain damage can easily experience different levels of amnesia. Producing a reliable general method for memory deletion is almost certainly impossible.

    Short term memory disruption, and the prevention of moving short term memories into long term memory is easier to achieve.

    If you want to experience it, dislocate your elbow and go to hospital. They'll give you a nice pill, you'll scream while they manhandle your arm back into position, and five minutes later you won't remember any of it. I've not experienced it, but I've relocated a fair few arms. Its funny when the people wake up and ask when your going to start.

    • by sckeener (137243)

      On the positive side, it might possible to smudge or blur a memory.

      I know I'd like to make a few memories less painful such as my divorce.

      Though I have to wonder if blurring or wiping bad memories is enough as in my case with a divorce. The bad memories of the divorce could be erased, but then I'd have the longing of why such a positive marriage ended.

    • How are they going to deal with all associated memories also?

      Say I want to forget an ex. Bamn, 'her' memory is gone. But what about the memory of who I watched a certain movie with? Would I remember:
      1) Not ever seeing the movie
      2) Not ever seeing the movie with someone
      3) Not ever remember seeing the movie with her
      4) Not remember that the person I saw the movie with was my ex.

      Smells, Sounds, Sights can all trigger memories in humans, what is going to happen when the 'interrupt' is still there but there's noth

    • Radiolab recorded a good show that featured this work more than a year ago. Check it out:
      http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2007/06/08/segments/71872 [wnyc.org]

  • Scientist: "Here, mouse, have some cheese."
    [Mouse eats cheese]
    Scientist: "Right, now forget about it completely."
    [Waits 5 minutes]
    Scientist: "Say, mouse, how was that oak-smoked camembert with chive and onion?"
    Mouse: "Chive?"
    Scientist: "Wow, it works."
  • You do not want a vacation on mars. You want to stay here and keep doing Sharon Stone.

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

    by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:30AM (#25480509) Homepage

    So soon we will have truly enforceable NDA's.

  • by rodney dill (631059) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:37AM (#25480551) Journal
    ...its the Haitian
  • Because everyone's forgotten we were discussing this not too long ago. I specifically rememeber someone saying they wanted to erase their first sexual experience.
  • Old tech (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pompatus (642396) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:50AM (#25480629) Journal
    I can already erase memories. It's called whiskey.
  • Self-amputation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Big Nemo '60 (749108) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:51AM (#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 PinkyDead (862370) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @07:52AM (#25480659) Journal

    Brewers have been doing this for centuries.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This would be a waste on me. I couldn't remember anything for them to trace what to erase anyhow.

    Heck, I can't even remember my login.

  • by scubamage (727538) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:11AM (#25480811)
    Just sayin. Clementine was farking hot.
  • by sorak (246725) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:18AM (#25480875)

    It will be interesting, to one day see if removal of a traumatic memory can help with psychological issues that may stem from it.

    For example, can erasing war-time memories lessen PTSD, and to what extent? Or would said person simply exhibit the same symptoms and have no idea why?

    • by genner (694963)

      It will be interesting, to one day see if removal of a traumatic memory can help with psychological issues that may stem from it.

      For example, can erasing war-time memories lessen PTSD, and to what extent? Or would said person simply exhibit the same symptoms and have no idea why?

      Since the symptoms revolve around reliving those experiences I wouldn't think it would be possible if you don't remember them.

    • by eulernet (1132389) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:53AM (#25481249)

      Such technique already exists, and is used for heavy trauma, like plane crash.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_Movement_Desensitization_and_Reprocessing [wikipedia.org]

      The trick is pretty simple, just move your eyes from left to right, then right to left, continuously.

      It seems to relieve the traumatic pains, and is widely known. For example, Carlos Castaneda describes this trick in his books.
      No idea why it works, though !

      • shifty eyes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slew (2918)

        Perhaps that's why we are conditioned to view people with shifty eyes with mistrust. Perhaps they are self medicating their psyche after being involved with (or having done) things that they'd rather forget and humans evolved a way to detect this.

  • by ashtophoenix (929197) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:29AM (#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.
  • what's goatse.cx? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @08:58AM (#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.

  • What a job. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:04AM (#25481397) Journal
    Torturing Mice. Great.

    RS

  • Scary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:33AM (#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 debrain (29228) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:34AM (#25481777) Journal

    Mind control and induced memory loss was part of a (now famous) CIA project apparently involving dozens of universities, called Project MK-ULTRA [wikipedia.org]. See also William Sargant [wikipedia.org] and Donald Cameron [wikipedia.org].

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @12:27PM (#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 $lingBlade (249591) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @12:58PM (#25484775)

    I used to be into BMX bike riding, I stress "used to". Anyway, one day at the track I was riding, went off a jump, lost control and came down on my face. I was wearing a helmet but NOT a full face helmet.

    Anyway, I lost that day almost completely from my memory banks. I can't remember going to work or being in a bad mood there (apparently I was exceptionally grouchy... serves me right) I can't remember going to the track and most disturbing to me, I cannot remember the jump I did or what exactly went wrong. Some kids said they saw me and told my friend about it. They said when I went off the jump I lost my balance mid-air and started coming down wrong. I landed on my face and put my two front teeth through my upper lip, knocked myself out cold and actually wet myself (pissed my pants).

    My girlfriend at the time came to the track and took me to the hospital where I got stitched up. So that day was like I said, almost completely wiped from my memory. Oh and incidentally, when asked at the ER what year it was, I was convinced it was 2002 when in fact it was 2003.

    Anyway, just my antectodal story, and after that I rode again but my wheels were shot and I lost all courage to try and do jumps, etc. I still ride but it's *chill style* and the most I'll do is jump little curb cuts. What irritates me most about it is NOT remembering what exactly went wrong. Yes those kids telling my friend helped but losing my balance mid-air? Just never happened to me up till that point so it never sat well with my mind. Usually when you bail, you KNOW what you did or were doing wrong (in this activity anyway) but since I couldn't remember it I was never the same on the bike thereafter.

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