In the 2004 Hollywood movie ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, it was filmed how a loving couple erases painful and bitter memories of their relationship so that they can start a new life. The Hollywood series ‘Men in Black’ started in 1997, ‘Total Recall’ in 2012.
Most of the events that happen in our daily life are stored in our minds in the form of memories. While good and memorable memories often flash in our mind and brain, old sad and bitter memories cause untimely trouble. Often this thought comes to our mind that I wish we could erase the memories that make life difficult and troublesome from the paper of mind and strengthen the good memories that make life happy and easy. Given the current scientific and technological progress, it may be possible to do this shortly.
Many science fiction novels and Hollywood films provide detailed descriptions of techniques for erasing unnecessary and painful memories from the brain. In the 2004 Hollywood movie ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, it was filmed how a loving couple erases painful and bitter memories of their relationship so that they can start a new life. Hollywood series ‘Men in Black’ started in 1997, ‘Total Recall’ in 2012,
‘The Incredibles-2’ (2018) and ‘Frozen’ (2013) are also similar films in which memories have been erased for different reasons. It is often believed that the fantasies made in science fiction can take the form of new inventions in the future. The idea of memory editing, the technique of editing human memories, is also about to come true now. Now it will be possible not only to erase bad memories from the mind but in their place good and happy memories can also be written on the blank paper of the mind. It is now possible for neuroscientists to identify the synaptic changes that produce memories in the brain.
So far, this technique has been successfully adopted by scientists on invertebrates. It has become possible to identify and edit certain special memories in these creatures. However, the formulation of memories in us humans and other vertebrates is so complex that it is not possible to edit them with this technique at the moment. However, biologists are working in their laboratories to discover new techniques of memory editing aimed at treating patients suffering from emotional fear, depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc. To reduce addiction.
Neuroscientists are using optogenetics techniques to erase painful and bitter memories. Optogenetics technology is playing an important role in the study of the brain, through which scientists use rays of light to investigate the complex functions of the human body. Currently, optogenetics has been established as a standard method for the study of nerve cells. Scientists conducted various experiments on genetically modified mice for memory editing because the brain of mice is comparatively simple.
Also, such changes were made in the genes of the mice that when their nerve cells are activated, they become green in color. Simultaneously, the sensitive proteins of these nerve cells are also turned on and off by the use of light rays. At present, the use of this technique has been successful in erasing emotional memories in animals. But experts do not consider this technique safe for humans because it requires more incisions.
Anyway, even after getting success at the experimental level, technology has to go through many clinical trials before it can be used for medical use. Nevertheless, the ongoing research in this direction raises the hope that shortly it will be easier to erase sad memories.
Scientists say that the human brain works like a computer. The hippocampus and cortex, located in the brain, keep experiences, events in our brains remembered for a long time. For example, the hippocampus works like a computer hard disk, whose job is to store or store our memories. The amygdala decodes good and bad memories. It is only through the coordination of the hippocampus and the amygdala that we experience good and bad. When we have to remember anything again, this memory from the cortex goes to the hippocampus and after that, we remember the old things.
Scientists have found that the connections between these parts of the brain (the cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala) are extremely flexible. Memories can be manipulated by tampering with this contact itself. Neuroscientists from the University of California have been able to erase old memories and create new memories in mice by altering the connectivity between these three parts of the brain of genetically modified mice. According to the scientist, at present, it is not safe for humans to use this technology.
By the way, this research will help scientists to investigate those parts of the human brain which are associated with good and bad memories. If it is proved by research that the activity rate of the lower part of the hippocampus is responsible for depression and other negative emotions in humans, then it will be of great help in the treatment of such patients.
When a memory is formed in the brain, it includes all the sensations like visual, audio, and touch. The memories of a particular event are not limited to any one place, so it is difficult to remove them mechanically. To overcome this difficulty, neuroscientists identify when neurons associated with a particular memory are active at a specific time. This is the time when a series of changes and stabilization of memory takes place.
In such a condition, the neurons associated with that memory are activated again and again, whether the person is sleeping or awake. This process is called memory hardening. Memories can be prevented from hardening by blocking their interaction with sensitive proteins that are responsible for synaptic changes. In many invertebrates, this technique has been able to erase the memories formed immediately. But these proteins erase all memories of some time ago, so it is not safe to use them medically for editing human memory.
Neuroscientists currently advocate the use of psychological techniques rather than optogenetics techniques that are widely used on humans. It is the quality of us humans that if the contact of a sad event is made with happy memories, then the feeling of negative emotions and fear is reduced. According to Japanese scientist Susumu Tonegawa, who researched this, the difference lies in how much good or bad memories dominate you. Both senses form their circuits in the brain and fight with each other. Such experiments have also been done on rats. When rats are kept in cages, fear and negative emotions arise in them.
If the male rat is first kept in a cage with the female rat for one hour and then kept in the cage alone, there is a reduction in negative emotions and fear. Psychologically, it is not necessary that one remembers all the things related to the accident or not, it is necessary that the feelings generated by the events. The depressed person is reminded of that event again (by showing things related to the event or taking it to that place). The emotions associated with the event are first excited. After that, by repeating this process again and again in the absence of the event, gradually the negative feelings associated with the event start decreasing. Psychologists and psychiatrists call this the deletion method.
Some underdeveloped neurohormones that reduce negative emotions and are capable of altering mood may prove useful to humans. It has been proved by many researchers that the stress hormones which are released due to an accident are responsible for strengthening that memory. Some antidepressant medicines can block the release of these stress hormones.
These medicines prevent the memories of some traumatic event in life from becoming emotionally strong. It is possible to erase a new memory through these medicines, old memories can also be erased by this if that memory is activated again, and after that, these medicines are given. The interesting thing is that the use of these medicines erases only the negative part of the memories and not the entire memory! These medicines are currently proving to be a boon in the treatment of psychiatric patients.
Scientists have succeeded in transferring, changing, and deleting memory in different creatures. Formulations of memories have also been recognized in the human brain. It is possible to erase the memories associated with a negative event with medicines by stimulating the nerve cells associated with it. Now fresh memories can be changed and it is possible to create memories of events that never happened! Although memory editing in humans is still in its early stages, it is nothing less than a boon for those who are suffering from mental illnesses like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, dementia.
Memory editing has proved to be very effective for soldiers who have been troubled for life by the heart-wrenching experiences of war. Today memory editing techniques are being used to treat even drug addicts. Many memories in our life are so painful that it is very difficult to live with them, the biggest thing is that it is possible to erase those sad memories today.
It is said that knowledge is like a double-edged sword, it can be used for development as well as for destruction. There is a new concept called Neuroethics focused on the ethical dilemmas associated with human memory editing. Neuroethics opposes the manipulation of our memories (which is the basis of our existence).
Howard Eisenbaum, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Memory and Brain, believes that our memory involves a very limited number of brain cells. In such a situation, erasing painful memories by destroying one cell can have a bad effect on other cells as well. Advocates of neuroethics believe that although the prospect of erasing traumatic memories may bring relief to some people, memory editing will fundamentally change who we are or how we behave.
There is a common fear that memory editing techniques can be used to alter people’s self-identities and manipulate their memories. Although it is often dismissed, such possibilities are real and need to be monitored because our history shows that we can also use science technology to build nuclear reactors and nuclear reactors. To make bombs too! However, everyone agrees that if bad and harsh memories are ruining your life, then compromising on memory editing isn’t that bad either.