Unwanted Memories Can Be “Deleted”, Scientists Claim

We all got unpleasant memories we want to permanently remove from our minds. Just like the character of Jim Carey in the American film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, we wish we could erase painful events and people from our memories.

It may sound something straight out of a science fiction movie but scientists have actually found a way to delete unwanted memories. A cutting edge research into the nature of memory is featured in a PBS Nova documentary called “Memory Hackers”.


The documentary will feature Jake Hausler, a 12-year-old boy from St. Louis who is the youngest person to be diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, a condition allowing him to remember almost every single thing he experienced since the age of 8. But because of his condition, it is difficult for him to differentiate between trivial and important events from his past.

Neuroscientist Andre Fenton who currently works  on a technique to delete painful memories said: “Forgetting is probably one of the most important things that brains will do. We understand only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human memory.”

The show will also feature London South Bank University psychology professor Julia Shaw who designed a system to implant false memories. She has successfully convinced subjects that they committed crimes they never did.

Clinical psychologist Merel Kindt will also be featured in the documentary. She has discovered a medication that remove negative associations of certain memories allowing her to treat patients with arachnophobia.

Watch the video.

Scientists Reverse Bad Memories

Scientists at the MIT have discovered the part of the brain that controls bad memories and emotions linked to past events. With this discovery, scientists can now reverse the link and help treat post-traumatic stress disorder as well as depression.

The technology, which was used in mice, could be available for humans. They are now developing a variety of methods which will attempt to target the stimulation of human brain cells.

However, Prof. Susuma Tonegawa of the Riken-MIT Centre for Neural Circuit Genetics emphasized that they will only use such technology for pathological conditions.

“I want to make it clear that we have no not to use this technology in order to alter normal healthy people’s mind or cognition. That we should not do. If there is any application in human it would be for pathological conditions,” Tonegawa said.