How often have we wished to forget about that really bad day? Or that awful thing that happened to us a month ago? A year ago? Or even back when we were children? There’s a reason so many movies (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), TV shows (Blindspot) and other mediums in pop culture have tackled the idea of purposeful memory loss over the years — sometimes you just really want to forget in order to move on.
Well it seems as though scientists may be one step closer to making that dream a reality. And it’s setting off a whole bunch of ethical and moral questions, while also providing potential hope to those with PTSD and anxiety disorders.
Basically, researchers found that memories aren’t as linked and complicated as previously thought, and they think they may have found a way to target specific types of memories in the mind.
“One might have thought there was a unified process where memories were maintained — that you couldn’t erase one without erasing them all,” Wayne Sossin, one of the researchers involved in the study, told the CBC. “Depending on how you remind the person, you might be able to erase different aspects of the memory.”
So far, the researchers’ theories have only been tested on molluscs, but they’ve proved to be promising. They basically zapped molecules with an electrical stimulation and found that it’s possible to erase different connections learnt through experience. However, a lot more research needs to be done before they can target exact, specific memories to obliviate, a la Harry Potter.
On one hand, we completely see the benefits to getting rid of painful memories, especially if they’re impacting your daily life and stopping you from doing things that you used to enjoy. But how far is too far? Do you use it for a bad breakup the way they did with Eternal Sunshine? And what kind of long-term effects could something like this have?
Obviously a ton of research still needs to go into this, but it’s cool to know that our memories aren’t as inaccessible as we once thought. And hey — maybe if scientists can find a way to eliminate memories, perhaps they can also find a way to improve ours?
Now that’s something we’d sign up for if we had the chance.