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Remember to Forget
October 24, 2008 11:12 PM   Subscribe

Dr. Joe Z. Tsien has previously created a strain of mice unable to form memories, one with much improved memory - "Doogie" mice - and can now erase single mouse memories. "Our work reveals a molecular mechanism of how that can be done quickly and without doing damage to brain cells." Remembering to forget....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth (45 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great. As the technology improves, I'm sure this will only be used for good.
posted by rokusan at 11:43 PM on October 24, 2008


You will only remember that it was used for good.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:51 PM on October 24, 2008 [18 favorites]


I sincerely hope that I will not live to see the day in which a technology with such potential for evi- ...wait, what was I talking about again?
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:03 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


At long last, hope that one day we may all forget that Kate Winslet ever existed.
posted by Epenthesis at 12:06 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll take a mind-eraser with a havarti back, please?
posted by heyho at 12:39 AM on October 25, 2008


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mouse?
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 1:23 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am a doctor... You are playing with Tonka trucks in the sandbox...
posted by clearly at 1:42 AM on October 25, 2008


I wonder how many scientific studies were motivated by inebriated grad students with access to laboratory mice. "Hey, what if we got the mice drunk? Or, what if we got the mice stoned?"

"Hey what if the mice didn't remember what we did to them? What if no one - me, you, and especially my thesis adviser - could remember what we did on Friday?"

That would be cool! Please?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:33 AM on October 25, 2008


without doing damage to brain cells.

"Technically, the procedure is brain damage."

God I loved Eternal Sunshine.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 2:43 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Doogie" mice?

Do these mice have a blog written in WordPerfect?
posted by chillmost at 3:16 AM on October 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's bad to take too much forgettol. Take some regrettol as a chaser.
posted by wobh at 3:17 AM on October 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I still can't believe he won a bloody Academy Award for his role in Flowers for Algernon. Except it was called Charley or something.

I wonder if it was a sympathy / political decision at the time? Not like the Academy to do such a thing, I know.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:52 AM on October 25, 2008


I am offended at the idea that memories and other features of consciousness are chemical in nature and not the ineffable workings of divine will upon my soul. This research is degrading and dehumanizing and an insult to Christianity and Christians everywhere.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:56 AM on October 25 [+] [!]

Fuhgeddaboudit.
posted by kcds at 5:22 AM on October 25, 2008


This is almost completely awesome. I say "almost" to leave room for how sort of terrifying it is.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:31 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bit of a derail there, Pope Guilty?

I myself am more interesting in the "improved memory" aspect of the research than the memory erasing part. Less room for abuse, and more interesting.

Anyway, this means that we have not only made 1) glowing mice, 2) immortal mice, and 3) hedonistic, suicidal mice (or was that rats?), now they can remember everything. If only we could move on to other animals.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:33 AM on October 25, 2008


If only we could move on to other animals.

Or develop more plot lines featuring rodent characters.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:40 AM on October 25, 2008


that's not all mice can do now :P they're gaining on us!
posted by kliuless at 5:41 AM on October 25, 2008


Wait, what was the FPP about?
posted by nax at 6:10 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Someone should say something funny about Pinky and the Brain.
posted by RussHy at 6:44 AM on October 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are things I would love to forget. I have an uncomfortably vivid memory for social interaction type stuff and can do things like repeat 20-year-old conversations word for word (though I'm hopeless at remembering technical information). It makes it hard for me to move on from bad relationships. But I still don't want anyone messing with my mind.
posted by orange swan at 7:10 AM on October 25, 2008


This is just the first step in our war on the scourge of our population:

Mnemonicists.

These "Memory hoarders" hate our appallingly languid frontal lobes.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:22 AM on October 25, 2008


Crap, "Mnemonists"
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:23 AM on October 25, 2008


Too good a memory can be trouble.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:49 AM on October 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


People, we discussed this already.
posted by Free word order! at 8:27 AM on October 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Michael: Wait a minute. Are you responsible for this, Mom? Did you put one of your sons into a coma so that he can’t testify?

Lucille: Michael, how dare you? Of course it crossed my mind. But this was all Buster. He got into your brother’s pills.

Michael: Not the Forget-Me-Nows...

G.O.B.: He asked me for them. I didn’t know! I thought he was dating again!
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 8:34 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This episode of radio lab covers exactly that.
posted by clueless22 at 8:36 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


From Ochs & Capps, Narrating the Self (PDF):
...narratives are versions of reality. They are embodiments of one or more points of view rather than objective, omniscient accounts. While some narrators emphasize the truth of a narrated text, others grapple with the fragility of memory and the relativity of point of view. A leitmotif running through the writing of Milan Kundera is the paradoxical relationship between remembering and forgetting. While warning us that "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting" (130:3), Kundera despairs that memory never captures authentic experience. "We immediately transform the present moment into its abstraction. We need only recount an episode we experienced a few hours ago: the dialogue contracts to a brief summary, the setting to a few general features...Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. Remembering is a form of forgetting" (132:128). An important challenge to humanity is to recognize that lives are the pasts we tell ourselves.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:44 AM on October 25, 2008


[comment removed - while you're more than welcome to discuss pretty much anything, incendiary thread-shitting is uncool and makes the baby jessamyn cry. MetaTalk is available for your RAWRRAWR pleasure.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:01 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;

posted by empath at 10:06 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


As someone who just lurrved Eternal Sunshine, this is a bit terrifying.

But also, as someone who has heavily "self-medicated" himself with pot in an effort to make months-long depressive periods less, what, painful?, this is potentially a good thing.

In the end? I wouldn't trade my memories for anything. Even those really painful ones who eat at me in the night while I'm trying to fall asleep. I'm responsible for all of my actions and don't regret them--except the ones involving trusting people I shouldn't have. Those memories make up who I am, and the one thing I regret most now is trying (and kinda succeeding) in erasing some of them.
posted by papafrita at 10:10 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


also, from the other side of memory, Borges:

He was, let us not forget, almost incapable of general, platonic ideas. It was not only difficult for him to understand that the generic term dog embraced so many unlike specimens of differing sizes and different forms; he was disturbed by the fact that a dog at three-fourteen (seen in profile) should have the same name as the dog at three-fifteen (seen from the front). His own face in the mirror, his own hands, surprised him on every occasion. Swift writes that the emperor of Lilliput could discern the movement of the minute hand; Funes could continuously make out the tranquil advances of corruption, of caries, of fatigue. He noted the progress of death, of moisture. He was the solitary and lucid spectator of a multiform world which was instantaneously and almost intolerably exact.
posted by empath at 10:11 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are things I would love to forget. I have an uncomfortably vivid memory for social interaction type stuff and can do things like repeat 20-year-old conversations word for word .... It makes it hard for me to move on from bad relationships.

It's your own damn fault, "orange swan".
It was you who kept putting the toilet paper roll on the wrong way around.
It was you who kept hoarding all those cardboard tubes for your stupid craft projects.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:51 AM on October 25, 2008


But also, as someone who has heavily "self-medicated" himself with pot in an effort to make months-long depressive periods less, what, painful?, this is potentially a good thing.

In the end? I wouldn't trade my memories for anything. Even those really painful ones who eat at me in the night while I'm trying to fall asleep.


I'm with you, I think. On one hand, I, like most of us probably, have many painful memories I'd prefer to forget permanently. However, those painful experiences are a big part of what make us who we are. But then on the other other hand, sometimes I don't like who I am. Then again, how do I know I'd like the painful-memory-free version of me better? Maybe it'd be worse. And also, what if they fucked up and erased your first kiss or something? Deep existential shit, maaan.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:52 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno I can see some good applications of this. What about people with post traumatic stress disorder? Survivors of certain crimes, like extraordinary random violence and rape? Those things where you think, hey, it's not really fair that you have to have those memories, they were accrued through no fault of your own and keeping them would only change your behaviour for the worse...and if you want to get rid of them, the visceral ones, not the fact that it happened at all, maybe it's not a bad thing to remove the most painful parts. Childhood abuse, etc.?

Sure, it creates a basic normative experience, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

I'm sure it would be optional.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:55 AM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Survivors of certain crimes, like extraordinary random violence and rape?

Or the Bush administration.
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on October 25, 2008


There's a party in my mind
And I hope it never stops

posted by Meatbomb at 11:23 AM on October 25, 2008


Only if you voted Democrat, empath. Republicans and those who failed to vote have to live with their mistakes.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:40 AM on October 25, 2008


Okay, next time I want to say "This is a blow against the Cartesian Dualism that many invoke to argue against material reductionism" I'll be sure to do it without an ounce or sarcasm or snark.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:06 PM on October 25, 2008


I suppose this can end the veteran's ptsd problems and maybe get them to re-enlist.
posted by Bitter soylent at 12:18 PM on October 25, 2008


I have no qualms whatsoever about using this technology to wipe unpleasant and embarassing memories from my brain.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:58 PM on October 25, 2008


There are some PTSD treatments that can work and don't actually erase the memory, just make it stop causing an undesirable emotional reaction every time the memory is recalled. Maybe it's just my prejudices, but this seems ethically and rationally preferable.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:25 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Or the Bush administration.

This would come in handy for extraordinary rendition. You don't have to worry about the Pinochet principle when you can wipe your victim's memory after torturing him.
posted by homunculus at 3:57 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


My layman's understanding of PTSD and the like is that the ongoing effects aren't that closely related to the act of recall itself; they're the result of the experience. So you could erase that memory and you'd just have someone with PTSD who didn't know why they had it. (Or as aeschenkarnos says, you can treat the PTSD without removing the memory.)
posted by hattifattener at 8:13 PM on October 25, 2008


Dr. Joe! I was just asking him the other day how his work on memory erasure was going, but he said he had no idea what I was talking about.
posted by rusty at 1:06 PM on October 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eek. Kind of creepy. I mean, it'd be lovely to just forget about some of the things you don't want to revisit, ever, but how can you ensure only that memory is forgotten? A bit mind boggling, really.
posted by Phire at 12:20 AM on October 28, 2008


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