Everyone has bad memories. What if you could walk into a clinic, just like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and have those memories erased? It might sound fantastical, but scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have successfully done something similar in mice.
Memory has long fascinated scientists. Researchers have already learned how to erase memories of fear, as well as how to plant false memories. Now, they want to erase all bad memories, at least those tied to drug addiction. Scientists looked at these particular memories because of how potent they are: drug cravings are triggered by something as simple as seeing a dollar bill or smelling cigarette smoke. The researchers began by creating a meth addiction in a group of laboratory mice who were trained to associate their addiction with certain sensory rewards. For example, every time a mouse was given a piece of cheese, it started jonesing for a hit.
So how did the scientists block those memories and make the mice forget their addiction? A lot happens when a memory is produced, but the primary reaction that occurs involves a protein called actin, which creates a chain of molecules during memory formation. Scientists blocked that particular action, which caused the mice to forget the association of certain things with addiction memories. And it worked: the mice proved in tests that the things that reminded them of meth no longer did so. Their other memories were unaffected.
This isn’t exactly the same as stepping into a clinic and having a memory of an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend erased, but this research could prove invaluable for those suffering from a drug addiction.