Can You Erase Bad Memories?
Whether it’s from an awful breakup or a traumatic life event, some memories can haunt us for our entire lives. But, what if there was a way that you could completely forget these all together? Can science erase your bad memories?
Memory is an incredibly complex process; while scientists used to believe it was like a filing cabinet and particular memories were stored in different sections of the brain, we now know this is incorrect. In fact, each memory is a brain wide process.
If you end up remembering this video, it’s because the cells in your brain are being triggered and fired, building new connections and links and literally rewiring the circuitry of your mind. And this change is partially facilitated by proteins in the brain.
So what if the proteins aren’t available? Simply put, memories can’t be made.
Seriously, scientists have tested this by giving animals drugs that prevent these proteins from forming.
As a result the animals have no recollection of the things that took place shortly after the drug was taken.
From this research, scientists actually found a way to target long term memories for deletion.
You see, every single time you remember a memory, your brain is once again firing and rewiring. In fact, each time you reflect on a memory, you are literally physically changing that memory in your mind. And each time that memory is altered a little, reflecting your current thoughts.
Remembering is an act of creation and imagining, meaning the more you reflect on old memories, the less accurate they become. And scientists have actually quantified this change. After 9/11, hundreds of people were asked about their memories of the dreadful day. A year later, 37% of the details had changed. By 2004, nearly 50% of the details had changed or gone missing. And because memories
are formed and rebuilt every time, if you administer the protein inhibiting drug while recalling a memory, the memory can be effectively removed.
To test this, scientists took lab rats and played a sound for them, shortly followed by an electric shock. After doing this multiple times, the rats quickly learned that if they heard the sound, a shock was soon to follow. As a result, they would stress up and freeze every time they heard it. Months later, these rats would still respond to the noise; however, if they administered the drug first, the rats would lose the memory of the sound, and simply continue on. They had lost their memory of that specific noise. To be sure the drug wasn’t just causing large scale brain damage, scientists repeated these experiments with multiple tones.
Both sounds would warn for a shock, and eventually the mice would fear both. But if they administered the drug and played only one of the sounds, the mice would only forget that tone, while still remaining fearful of the other.
Over time scientists have discovered specific drugs to target particular proteins across different parts of the brain. So, if you experience a terrible emotion with a memory, then targeting a protein in the emotional regions of the brain can help to remove that connection alone.
Which could be an amazing tool, especially for patients suffering from something like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But while these drugs are in the very early stages, the question remains; if you were given a ‘forgetting pill’ would you be willing to take it?
Special thanks to Audible.com for supporting this episode and giving you a free audio book of your choice at audible.com/asap. Audible is the leading provider of audiobooks with over 150,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature. We recommend the book “Undeniable: Evolution and the science of creation” by the one and only Bill Nye the Science Guy who we did a video with on this channel a while back! You can download this audio book or another of your choice, for free, at audible.com/asap. And with a subscription you get one free book a month! Special thanks Audible for making these videos possible!
And subscribe for more weekly science videos!