Erasing a single memory

i-3e0a8a3ea0ea010010cab9acaf5145e7-mouse_memory.gifIt looks like under very controlled circumstances, with rats, you can pick and choose which memory stays and which memory goes with a new drug. Don't worry though - the CIA won't be implanting and removing memories of last Tuesday any time soon. I'm not saying they can't wipe out most of last January, but they've always been able to do that with a whole lot of electric shocks and crazy drugs ;) Now, aliens on the other hand, they have a decent success rate with people. At last it seems that way since some people don't recover the memories of their anal probes until years later.

In any case, here's the basic story from the LeDoux Lab and Nature News:

Joseph LeDoux of the Center for Neural Science at New York University and his colleagues wanted to know how specific this interference was: could the transfer of one specific memory be meddled with without affecting others?

"Our concern was: would you do something really massive to their memory network?" says LeDoux.

To find out, they trained rats to fear two different musical tones, by playing them at the same time as giving the rats an electric shock. Then, they gave half the rats a drug known to cause limited amnesia (U0126, which is not approved for use in people), and reminded all the animals, half of which were still under the influence of the drug, of one of their fearful memories by replaying just one of the tones.

When they tested the rats with both tones a day later, untreated animals were still fearful of both sounds, as if they expected a shock. But those treated with the drug were no longer afraid of the tone they had been reminded of under treatment. The process of re-arousing the rats' memory of being shocked with the one tone while they were drugged had wiped out that memory completely, while leaving their memory of the second tone intact.
To find out, they trained rats to fear two different musical tones, by playing them at the same time as giving the rats an electric shock. Then, they gave half the rats a drug known to cause limited amnesia (U0126, which is not approved for use in people), and reminded all the animals, half of which were still under the influence of the drug, of one of their fearful memories by replaying just one of the tones.

Assuming you wanted to use this drug to remove a single memory in a human, I can't imagine how you would target it unless you kept a person in a blank room and only allowed them to see what you wanted them to see. Memory isn't exactly a book where you can pick a certain line or word and remove it at will.

I'm looking forward to some misplaced press hype on this one. Can anyone come up with some great misleading article titles for this finding?

The abstract and article link are below the fold.

Published online: 11 March 2007; | doi:10.1038/nn1871

Synapse-specific reconsolidation of distinct fear memories in the lateral amygdala

Valerie Doyere, Jacek De ogonbiec, Marie-H Monfils, Glenn E Schafe & Joseph E LeDoux

When reactivated, memories enter a labile, protein synthesis-dependent state, a process referred to as reconsolidation. Here, we show in rats that fear memory retrieval produces a synaptic potentiation in the lateral amygdala that is selective to the reactivated memory, and that disruption of reconsolidation is correlated with a reduction of synaptic potentiation in the lateral amygdala. Thus, both retrieval and reconsolidation alter memories via synaptic plasticity at selectively targeted synapses.

If you have access here's the link to the article.

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Don't beleive this crap. They don't have anything. These stupid scientists have been claiming for over ten years now that they can erase memory - I have not heard of them erasing a single human memory yet. "Memory reconsolidation" is futile. No matter what they tell you they cannot erase memory by recalling it and then giving someone a pill to take, that is so stupid it is unbeleivable. These researchers are the same idiots who claimed that taking propranolel after a traumatic event will "dim the memory", I in fact tried propranolel and it did not do anything. So all you people who think memory erasing is unethical, immoral, and blah, blah, blah can save your breath. The researchers are only seeking publicity with their over-exagerrated claims.

Other scientists (check out Suny Downstate Medical erasing memory, Todd Sacktor and Andre Fenton), have made more promising progress by physically erasing memory at the molecular level by inhitibiting a protein which keeps the synaptic stregnthening of the memory nueron, but they apply the molecule to the hippancumus and I beleive it destroys all memories as they cannot at this point single out a specific memory to inhibit the protein molecule. Memories are so so minute that they cannot even be seen with a microsope so it will be probably decades before they will be able to wipe out a single specific memory, and then, how will they be able to get deep into the brain to target a specific memory? I think that is impossible.

I wonder if they ever do find a way to do this if they could also delete thoughts in the brain, if so there are possibilites that would be able to cure a lot of mental problems such as addictions, OCD, phobias, depression and ptsd as all of these are related to memories and thoughts.

Would it be possible to make a whole mass of people forget an historical event?
Could we erase ugly memories from our national past somehow?
Could we make wrong right and right wrong somehow?
If we can erase memories of things that were can we create memories of things that weren't?

By Eddie Bryan (not verified) on 07 Dec 2009 #permalink