By manipulating important levels of protein in the brain, certain memories can be erased according to a group of scientist lead by Joe Tsien from the Medical College of Georgia.
Although some experts have suggested that it could be valuable to erase certain memories in people, like traumas during war, Tsien doubts that this could be achieved the way it was done with mice.
“Our work reveals a molecular mechanism of how that can be done quickly and without doing damage to brain cells,” says the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Cognitive and Systems Neurobiology.
Tsien also argued about the ethical and moral implications of erasing people’s memories.
Memory has four distinct stages: learning, consolidation, storage and recall. It has been difficult to dissect the molecular mechanisms of these stages because researchers lacked techniques to manipulate proteins quickly. For example, when researchers disable a gene suspected to play a role in the memory process, the deletion typically occurred throughout the entire period so it was impossible to tell which parts of processes were impaired. Previous technology would take several days to switch off a protein, which is the product of a gene.
All of our memories, including those which are emotionally painful have their purpose. It is those memories and experiences which shape our character and makes us who we are.
Medical College of Georgia News – Memories selectively, safely erased in mice
Technology Review – Selectively Deleting Memories