Indefinite Memories

There are many substances in the brain thought to be responsible for maintaining long-term memories. Now, research is showing that by blocking one of these substances, the enzyme PKMζ (PMKzeta), we could ‘erase’ certain memories. The hope is that the opposite could work, too:

The drug [ZIP] blocks the activity of a substance that the brain apparently needs to retain much of its learned information [PKMζ]. And if enhanced, the substance could help ward off dementias and other memory problems.

However, should we really be trying to erase memories (traumatic experiences, an addiction, etc.)? Another group of researchers say no, and instead are looking at how a certain neurotransmitter receptor (mGluR5) may allow us to override or ‘unlearn’ memories, possibly helping with conditions such as PTSD, phobias, and anxiety.

We don’t need to annihilate bad memories to get over them. A normal brain is able to take in new information that overrides or “unlearns” traumatic experiences. […]

“It’s more appropriate to remember [a traumatic] event, […] you just don’t want it to affect your daily life.”

On the other end of the spectrum, a study published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review in 2002 looks at how researchers successfully created false childhood memories using doctored photographs (pdf).

In prior research on how adults can be led to report false childhood memories, subjects have typically been exposed to personalized and detailed narratives describing false events. Instead, we exposed 20 subjects to a false childhood event via a fake photograph and imagery instructions. Over three interviews, subjects thought about a photograph showing them on a hot air balloon ride and tried to recall the event by using guided-imagery exercises. Fifty percent of the subjects created complete or partial false memories. The results bear on ways in which false memories can be created and also have practical implications for those involved in clinical and legal settings.

via @jakeybro, @rightthought and @mocost