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April 16, 2009 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory : spotless minds might be closer than we think.
posted by grapefruitmoon (20 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If things have gone wrong, I'm talking to myself, and you've probably got a wet towel wrapped around your head.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:48 AM on April 16, 2009 [8 favorites]

Good. Now I can erase memories of having watched Memento and then keep watching it over and over again with that first-time wonderment.
posted by Lucubrator at 11:49 AM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

The advantage of alcoholism is everything you did that you would usually want to forget you find out about second-hand.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:50 AM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

SG: I'll tell you what we do, we order one of those mind erasing kits.

M: You already have one.

SG: If I already had one, don't you think I'd remember that?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:55 AM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

You edit your own memories all the time without any drugs. The retrieval process itself changes memory.

Emotional memory editing using drugs was also mentioned on Radiolab.
posted by parudox at 12:00 PM on April 16, 2009

So basically, the researcher says, "Hey, we made rats forget stuff, maybe everything, we don't know, they're rats, but the really cool part is that we might be able to improve memory in Alzheimer's patients!," and the article says, "ZOMG u ken eras memry!!! LOL and also maybe help people except that SCIENCE IS EVIL."
posted by uncleozzy at 12:03 PM on April 16, 2009

(Okay, it's not quite that bad, but the tone seems wrong.)
posted by uncleozzy at 12:04 PM on April 16, 2009

Pleeze leave some flowers on Algernons grave if you get the chanse...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:36 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think I might have read this before.
posted by yhbc at 12:41 PM on April 16, 2009

There is the kernel of a truly horrifying story here about someone using this technology to maliciously delete some victimized person's memory a little bit at a time, slowly driving them crazy.

I mean, I'm not gonna write it, but it's there.

As for the implications in potentially treating Alzheimer's, hell yeah! Go science!
posted by quin at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2009

posted by msittig at 1:18 PM on April 16, 2009


Single Link Not You Tube?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:23 PM on April 16, 2009

Guy_Inamonkeysuit: "Pleeze leave some flowers on Algernons grave if you get the chanse..."

Wow, that just took me right back to when I was 12 or so and I read "Flowers for Algernon" for the first time in some collection of science fiction short stories. I think I actually cried...

I guess my memory hasn't been erased yet. Or maybe it's a false one? It's all so confusing... someone get me a drink!
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:01 PM on April 16, 2009

I actually discussed the paper referenced in a related post at my department's journal seminar series (two grad students or postdocs present an article every week). Reaction was, shall we say, mixed.

One thing I took away from the research for that presentation, was that this stuff has been around FOR EVER. As in, scientists were playing around with forcing selective amnesia (and then recovering the erased memories!) in the 1950's and then the literature kind of died down and most people forgot about it. Lots of things can do this. Hypoxia, extreme cold, a wide variety of drugs. The key is what parudox mentioned, that the act of remembering places a memory in a very fragile state, then alters the memory contingent upon whatever is happening during the remembering. This opens the door to serious shenanigans, especially when drugs are in play (although therapy can also be extremely effective at altering memories, for better or worse).

Many of the older techniques for induced selective amnesia were in fact reversible (I don't know about the newer ones ---the Tsien paper didn't try very hard). Animals would exhibit amnesia, but they could then be prompted (under the right protocols) to exhibit at least partial recovery of the memories. The brain is complicated, it isn't a tape recorder.
posted by Humanzee at 5:38 PM on April 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


posted by mazola at 9:29 PM on April 16, 2009

Or is it?
posted by mazola at 9:30 PM on April 16, 2009

I suppose I should take a more reasonable scientific perspective, but all I can think of is a quotation from The Invisibles.
posted by gryftir at 11:28 PM on April 16, 2009

My darling daughter seems to edit her memory all the time. So much we have to learn from the eight year olds!
posted by IndigoJones at 6:29 AM on April 17, 2009

A Scanner Darkly.

And a lot of Phil Dick in general.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:36 AM on April 17, 2009

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