In a new study with powerful implications for mental health, scientists hijacked the memories of lab mice, inducing them to form synthetic "hybrid memories" that were a combination of real experience and confused context. The work could eventually pave the way for false-memory or real memory manipulation in people with schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Imagination can have a powerful effect on memory, and neuroscientists are starting to unravel the physical connections between the two. In this study, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute genetically engineered some mice to contain neuron triggers which the researchers could control. The mice were given a special memory receptor inserted into neurons that would normally be activated by sensory experiences. The technique is appropriately called a DREADD receptor (designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drug) — the team was working with the animals' fear response.
They conditioned the mice to fear a particular cage by giving them a shock whenever they were in it, and this fear activated the special neuron receptor. Then, when the mice were in a different cage, the researchers gave their mice a drug that reactivates this same receptor, triggering the same neurons that fired when the mice were actually scared. The mice behaved as if they were forming a hybrid memory, sharing experiences from the shock box and the non-shock box. This suggests the researchers can recreate the memory of fear even when there was no shock, and the mice were in a different location.
Next, the Scripps team wants to refine its neuronal manipulation to turn off parts of memory entirely — so a mouse would think it's in the shock box when it's really not.
There are implications for human health here, too, the researchers say. Mental health disorders like schizophrenia are associated with false memories or crippling fears — a drug that turns off this response in the right neurons could help patients live healthier lives. The study was published Friday in Science.
[via Science Daily]
They should seriously try to come out with some type of mind erasing drug from this research. I realize that people wouldn't learn from their mistakes if they didn't know what they had done wrong, but alot of things happen that people realize would have caused problems in the first place. There are plenty of instances where I wish I could have erased certain memories, because those memories stay with me and haunt me.
Cool. We can create memories for those who wants to forget it.
So is anyone worried that they'll be able to erase any memory, at any time? This will almost certainly be used by the government. Think about it, you can do whatever you want to someone to get information you need and simply erase what happened to them with no one being the wiser.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It may also allow us to one day change the way we deal with criminals, for example a murderer or repeat rapist or something would be sentenced to memory erasure and given a new identity.
If these individuals do not repeat offence then it may highlight the underpinning fact which is that a vast majority of serious offending criminals are in-fact a product of their environment. In other words our society makes people ill/bad, everywhere you look there is absolute brutal promotion for ruthless competition in order to get ahead and ABOVE our peers.
However some may also be clinical psychopaths (they can't feel any empathy or emotion of others) which will likely require a different solution.
..."Mental health disorders like schizophrenia are associated with false memories or crippling fears..."
I hope the researchers didn't really say this. This statement couldn't be more wrong.
Mental disorders are caused by buried memories of traumatic events. The mind can produce false memories if that is part of the traumatic events recorded at that time. That is, the person is told that he is a liar or that he never tells the truth. But, this has to be part of the recorded memories in the subconscious mind.
And to prove that this is so, one has only to go through therapies that move these recordings from "subconscious memory" to "conscious memory". The difficulty lies in the fact that it is not a single incident in the subconscious mind causing the insanity, it is a combination of hundreds of related events. But once these memories are relocated, the person is eventually not insane anymore.