iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Just like Jim Carrey’s character did in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, researchers are closing in on a way to safely erase traumatic memories.
As explained in PBS’ Nova special Memory Hackers on Wednesday night, Columbia University’s Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel first discovered that creating a memory actually causes physical connections in the human brain.
However, those synaptic connections change every time the memory is recalled, so they can be modified, Memory Hackers‘ writer, director, and producer Michael Bicks, tells the New York Post.
In a treatment that could someday be duplicated with soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, Bicks explains, arachnophobic people were treated with a drug called propanolol after being exposed to spiders.
After the treatment, when the test subjects were exposed to the arachnids again, they weren’t afraid — and that replaced what would normally be a fearful memory of spiders. Essentially, the new positive memory copied over the negative ones — so much so that the test subject was able to pet a hairy, palm-sized tarantula “completely relaxed.”
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