Thanks to science, you can soon wipe out your worst memories


Imagine being able to erase your most traumatic memories. For a soldier, that would mean no longer being haunted by images from the battlefield. For a movie critic, no longer recalling having seen “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.”

It’s just one of the fascinating peeks into the mystery of the human mind chronicled on “Memory Hackers,” airing Wednesday at 9 p.m. on PBS’ “Nova.”

“Memory is an inherently interesting thing,” the show’s writer, director and producer, Michael Bicks, tells The Post. “You think you know what it is, but when you think about it, you realize that you don’t.”

Many of us assume that memory is like a faithful recording of our lives stored in our brains, persistent and unchanging.

Shockingly, that’s not the case. Researchers have discovered that memory is changeable. The act of recalling something alters it.

Forming memories actually causes a physical change in the brain — a seismic discovery made by Nobel Prize-winning *neuroscientist Eric Kandel of Columbia University. When you create a memory, new synaptic connections grow between neurons in the brain. But each time you call up a memory, it must then be resaved like a file on your computer — and it gets modified in the process.

This finding has led scientists into “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” territory, the 2004 Jim Carrey movie about a man who has a memory of a bad breakup erased.

Dutch psychology professor Merel Kindt has seemingly found a way to erase the emotional anxiety associated with bad memories without erasing the memories themselves.

Working with arachnophobes, she discovered that subjects who were given a drug called *propanolol after being exposed to a spider were later able to handle the creatures without fear. The drug is believed to change the way a memory (in this case, terror associated with spiders) is resaved in the brain after being accessed.

But what’s the point of manipulating memories anyway?

“It might be possible to work with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], and that’s a huge deal,” Bicks says. “It could happen very soon.”

Great. Sign us up for a complete wipe of this presidential primary season.



If they go from theory to FDA approved therapy then we will have to be very careful with this. The emotions around a memory shape part of who we are.

Well that plus the idea that future human rights abuses might be covered up with such technology.


I wouldn’t get rid of my bad memories any more than I’d get rid of a limb. They are a part of me and made me who I am and will continue to form me. Then again I don’t have any really traumatic memories like soldiers or survivors of disasters.


Totally agree with the last two posters. Memories, bad or good, form an integral part of who we are; many bad memories perhaps reinforce positive personality traits and characteristics in many people.

I wouldn’t want to get rid of mine either, as painful as some may be. They are a part of me, and perhaps they’ve made me a better person in one way or another, even without me noticing it.


While I suppose it could be useful in some circumstances, I would prefer to leave shame and guilt as a necessary evil in our lives.


2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, here we come!


Not a great idea.

The power to wholly erase a mind will not be far behind.



I agree.

I remember an article on here awhile back that stated they had found they could ‘alter’ someones beliefs with some kind of technology, cant remember many of the details, but I think they had done it on a few people and for some reason, it worked.

Now that is really scary!!! If we start messing with our minds in this sense, it will have some very bad consequences.



Indeed. And that is a scary prospect – think things like that flashing object in Men in Black. One press of a buttom, wham! Memory erased. Scary. :eek:


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