Saturday, January 07, 2012

Expunge that from memory

If you were given the option to selectively eliminate or minimise the impact of unpleasant memories from your mind, would you go for it?

Well, it’s not in the realm of science fiction. Neuroscientists are currently researching the possibility. As this article explains,

The first speculative steps are now being taken in an attempt to develop techniques of what is being called “therapeutic forgetting.” Military veterans suffering from PTSD are currently serving as subjects in research projects on using propranolol to mitigate the effects of wartime trauma…. In addition to the work with veterans, there have been pilot studies with civilians in emergency rooms. In 2002, psychiatrist Roger Pitman of Harvard took a group of 31 volunteers from the emergency rooms at Massachusetts General Hospital, all people who had suffered some traumatic event, and for 10 days treated some with a placebo and the rest with propranolol [a beta blocker]. Those who received propranolol later had no stressful physical response to reminders of the original trauma, while almost half of the others did.”

Obviously, there are those who argue that there are grave risks in tinkering with human memory. The American Council of Bioethics, felt that editing memories could “disconnect people from reality or their true selves. While it did not give a definition of “selfhood,” it did give examples of how such techniques could warp us by “falsifying our perception and understanding of the world.” The potential technique “risks making shameful acts seem less shameful, or terrible acts less terrible, than they really are.”

Anyway, this can make an excellent theme for several B/K/T/Molywood films. Actually this is an old theme for them, as several movies in the “70s and ‘80s used ‘amnesia’ to good effect in their stories. The stories can be revived again and a new scientific spin injected. The heroine is witness to a murder scene. The culprits grab her and quickly operate on her brain or inject propranolol whatever to remove the piece of memory that has just lodged itself…..

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