Monday, September 25, 2006

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Scientists at State University of New York at Downstate Center have discovered a molecular mechanism that maintains memories in the brain. By inhibiting the molecule, researchers say they can erase long-term memories, much as you might erase a computer disc.

The molecule called “protein kinase M zeta” preserves long-term memories through persistent strengthening of synaptic connections between neurons. This is enzyme is similar to the mechanism-storing information of 0’s and 1’s in a computer’s hard disc.

By inhibiting the enzyme, scientists were able to erase a memory that had been stored for one day, or even one month. The article abstract can be found in Science Magazine

This research may be a breakthrough treatment for acute trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, just to name a few. And this discovery may unlock the mystery to Alzheimer's Disease and other memory loss disorders.

I love research, but I can't help but think of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind , the movies
Paycheck and Total Recall , where memories were erased.

I hope this newfound research will be used for "good" purposes.

Science Daily


princessdominique said...

Amazing. I saw the movie with Jim Carey and I couldn't comprehend such a thing happening, but I guess so.

Todd and in Charge said...

Neat -- I thought Paycheck was a much better movie than the critiques of it I had read. It's an adaptation of an old Philip K. Dick short story (of Bladerunner fame), and it's a pretty wild premise. Guess truth really is stranger than fiction.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deb,
this is really scary stuff. I love research too, but I hope they pass strict laws that will prevent this technology from ever being used against someone's will. I love all my memories, even the bad ones.

Now if they could figure out a way to help people remember things they lost, that would truly be groundbreaking.

P.S. sending you a big hug ~ and hopes that you are feeling better.

Dreaming again said...

My intitial thought was COOL! I can think of a few things that got me a PTSD dx.

Then suddenly realized ... but would it change who I am and some of the so called 'wisdom' people keep telling me I have?

Not sure I'd trade that for having the trauma erased.

Sarebear said...

Yeah, but can they erase specific memories, or at least a specific period of time of memories? It sounds like at least the latter.

Specific memories themselves is probably TOO specific, but maybe somewhere between general and specific . ..

If that makes any sense. Just willy-nilly would not really seem to have alot of potential, anyway, so I guess they've worked that out.

BUT. How did they get permission to test it on people, lol?

Id it is said...

Another breakthrough that holds promise of alleviating human pain and suffering. I hope we see that happen in our lifetime.

Amit said...

This is an amazing breakthrough! Lets just see what good use that they can put it too!

wolfbaby said...

My first thought was much like PK's where do i sign up but then i realized I wouldn't be the person I am without those memories even thebad ones....

jumpinginpuddles said...

i wouldnt mind one of those things in our home. Maybe we could sign up for a days treatment, the reality is it doesnt say how lasting it is and the problem i see is you can get rid of memories for a day but its not selective.
So the good and bad go, i want the machine where all the bad stuff goes and the good stuff remains;)

Deb S. said...

I always get a little concerned when someone attempts to manipulate (or change) memories.

God help us if such technology falls into the wrong hands. Perhaps I've watched too many espionage movies.

Heidi said...

Wow..This is very interesting news...I saw Paycheck and Total Recall enjoyed both.

Anonymous said...

I've had more than my fair share of "pain and suffering" in my lifetime. Still, I think it's unnatural and very scary to manipulate people's memories.
If we start leaning on technology to ease painful memories, I fear that we will lose the ability to cope and overcome adversity.

~Deb said...

Hmmmm, I think God gave us the file cabinets of our minds for a reason...and a learning process. If not for our memories, experiences and yes--trauma, we wouldn't learn from it all. I'm totally against this. But, to some, I can see why they would want to opt for this. On another note, how can they tell, which 'specific' memory is which?

Sounds much too scary for me. Hmm.

Nancy said...

i wish they would work on trying to boost the memory. or develop a delete button to make room for the new and important info but I would only delete the unnecessary info (like my first phone # when I was a kid).
its scarey stuff when they can enter ones mind and do functional MRI's and other mind reading techniques

PalmTreeChick said...

Wow, that's crazy stuff. It could be a good thing if, like you said, it's used properly!

Raine said...

Having lived thru the actual experience of losing memory...... (due to ECT) I find this pretty spooky. They would have to have some amazing control to only delete select memories and the damage that could be done in the process of testing this is rather frightening............... The idea of not having bad memories is comforting I can imagine. If you have had the experience of losing memories you didnt WANT to lose tho- your perspective changes dramatically

IdgyEdgy said...

Hi there...

I can see the usefulness for this kind of research to a point. But it also scares me...sounds like manipulating history. How would this effect our ability to learn from past mistakes? Would we be doomed to continually repeat history and all its mistakes?

I've had some experience with "erased" memories as it relates to my DID diagnosis and it's very hard to come to terms with not knowing what my true experience was and how that has shaped my life today.

Thanks for another thought-provoking topic!


Fallen Angels said...

They can have my memories...I dont want em.

CrackerLilo said...

OMG, I can't believe that movie may become a reality.

And I'm with Godwhacker--I hope it's used carefully. Maybe this will lead to getting the memories back. I hope.

I hope also that you're doing well today.

Playground in my Mind said...

I am always concerned about how far we push to be "God". Cloning and all that...even disease and death control...trauma treatment. You may be saving the life, but what kind of a life do they have in store? Is it right to intervene everytime just because science has opened this door? All tough questions. I the wrong hands....scary thought.

Sarebear said...

I think, perhaps, say very horrible stuff happened to a 6 year old. In that case, perhaps, to prevent lasting trauma that'd seriously impair his/her whole life . . . .

We are talking a person, and, at that, a CHILD person, so VERY MUCH CARE . . . would have to be taken.

That is just one instance that I could see, but there would have to be SERIOUS SERIOUS confencing among the parents, family doctors, and a variety of trusted mental health people and specialists and everything else.

I do not know what may have happened in my childhood to make me this way, but at this point, with only one "blackness" experience and horror, and a few other flashes of well sensory snippets, at this point, without knowing, I would say that I wish it could have been erased back then, so I wouldn't have had to struggle so hard just to exist in this world and interact with it, my whole life.

At this point, though, while I recoil from the thought of any horror that might have happened, I also know that to truly heal and become a stronger person, I WILL face whatever may be from my past, as my psyche chooses to reveal it. I certainly don't relish the thought, and I quail at the horrific feelings I've felt, without knowing what's behind them . . .

What I do know is there is NO WAY any child should have to feel that. It's a sad, depraved world at times, DAMN IT.

JD said...

May I just say, "WOW!"


And alternately scary.

*who loved 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'*

United We Lay said...

When has technology ever been used for only good purposes?

Ms.L said...

Wow,that's scary and exciting all at the same time!
I wonder what I'd choose to do??
Some of my worst memories have inspired me to do good would my life be different if I erased those??? Lots to think about for sure!

Ian Lidster said...

I think, dear Deb, I have survived and continue to due to the fact I remember the bad stuff and hopefully learned from it. So, no thank you, I'll keep my memories intact, both the good and bad ones.
Your friend,

Anonymous said...

Wow. Science always amazes me.

healthpsych said...

Amazing stuff but where does it end? Our experiences make us the people we are but I say that from the fortunate position of someone who doesn't have extremely traumatic memories.

Hope you're feeling okay, Deborah.

Meow said...

Hi Deb, how odd, last night I couldn't get on your blog ... there was nothing there except the sidebar !!!
Hope you are well
Have a great week.
Take care, Meow

Meow said...

Hi Deb, Blogger is playing up, won't let me comment ... hope this works.
Hope you are having a great week.
Take care, Meow

mysti said...

wow how wonderful that would be to treat Alzheimer's! I do worry though that it might be used in cases that it really is not needed. My past has a lot of really traumatic instances, but truthfully if we took that away, then one would be also take away the good that came out of the bad. Like being able to have empathy and compassion where as if I could not remember having gone through the situation I would not have developed.

I totally agree with you. " I hope the newfound research will be used for "good" purposes".

Val said...

Memories, good and bad, made me what I am. If I lose them, would it make me a different person? Hmm. An idea to muse on.

barbara said...

Wow, hope they are used for good purposes too! You always have such fascinating info to share! (I added you to my links, finally got around to updating them!)

Sunnie Dee said...

Its interesting to think about being able to decide what memories to keep or chuck. I have said for a long time I wish I didn't have to remember somethings but then recently I have been wondering what would my life be like if I hadn't had some of the 'bad' things. would I appreciate what I do have now. What if I could forget a friends death, would I appreicate the friends I have now? or would I take everything for granted. If I didn't have to remember being stony broke and going to a food bank would I appreicate being on a good income now and not having to worry about money.

it makes you wonder.... sometimes the thing you have wished for is not necessarily for the best

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Princess,
I can't believe it is possible either. Seems too "out there" to be possible.

Dear Todd,
I also enjoyed Paycheck. And truth IS stranger than fiction sometimes!

Dear Godwhacker,
I feel the same was as do you. I don't think I would ever opt for this as I believe all the bad as well as good makes me who I am. However, there may be some individuals who would not hesitate at all to remove certain things from memory.. BTW, I am feeling better but will have the elective surgery sometime next month. Thanks for your thoughts, buddy.

Dear Dreaming,
I'm with you on that. There was an example of individuals with phantom pain that makes me think this could be very helpful.

Dear Sare,
I don't know about the specifics in this research. I'll get the whole article and read it though. I am interested in knowing more about it.

Dear Id It Is,
As long as it can be used for "good", then hope can emerge.

Dear Amit,
I think it is both spooky and cool at the same time.

Dear Wolfbaby,
I think I would opt to pass on the treatment too. I have painful memories, but I think those experiences shaped who I am today. And I like who I am today. But for others, it may be a very easy choice.

Dear JIP,
I guess we will be hearing more about this technology as time goes by. Then you can see if it's something you want to try.

Dear Deb S.,
I worry too. Seems that good things often end up being used for bad.

Dear Heidi,
I thought it was very interesting as well. Even unbelievable!

Dear Anon,
You make an EXCELLENT point. Wow, I hadn't thought of that.

Dear ~Deb,
I know in Eternal Sunshine, they were able to target memories. I don't know about this technology in detail. As I've said before, I find it both cool and spooky at the same time.

Dear Nancy,
What *is* exciting and truly hopeful about this research is that they might be able to understand how memory works, how memory is stored AND how to enhance it.

Dear Palmtree,
One can only hope.

Dear Raine,
I have worked with several patients who've undergone ECT and the short term memory loss was a frustrating side effect. So, I can understand the pros and the cons of this potential technology.

Dear Idgyedgy,
Yup, it scares me too.

Dear Fallen,
Well, perhpas in time that can happen for you. PTSD can be extremely harrowing.

Dear Crackerlilo,
Always for the good, right. That's where I plant my flag, sounds like you do as well. And so far, I'm dealing well with my dumb-stupid gallbladder pain. ;)

Dear Renee,
I don't think I could have said it any better. Your thoughts align with mine.

Dear Sare,
Yes, it is.

Dear JD,
Eternal Sunshine was a brilliant movie. And yes, fascinating AND scary.

Dear United, THAT'S a good question.

Dear Ms. l,
I, like you, would choose not to erase the bad things. I know it will be a uniquely different choice for each person, but I feel I need those memories somehow. Strange, but that's how I feel sometimes.

Dear Ian,
You are so wise and eloquent, my friend.

Dear Urban Butterfly,
Science and technology amaze me too!!!!!

Dear Healthpsych,
I think those who've had trauma might fall out on both sides of this issue. Some may choose to wipe the slate, while others may wish to keep them. You make an insightful point, as usual :)

Dear Meow,
Blogger let both comments through. Hooray!

Dear Mysti,
What I found most intersting about this research was the potential to AID memory. If the technology can help Alzheimer's that would be TOTALLY wonderful.

Dear Val,
I second that!

Dear Barbara,
I love sharing. And love to learn new things. So glad you enjoy my blog.

Dear Sunnie,
What you wrote is so very poignant. I think the whole of who I am is made up of pain, sorrow, tragedy as well as the moments of joy and happiness. I fear not having them somehow. Y'know?


Raine said...

Deb - sorry but I had to respond to your response. My memory loss was not short term. That was 5 years ago and I have still not regained it. There are many things I only know about because I have been told by trusted people. For example- I had been dating a man that I guess I was fairly crazy about. I am told I even drove him to his base ( he was in the national guard) where he was called up after 9-11. A couple months later I started getting IMs from this man on my computer and he was telling me that I had been his lover. I didnt believe him as I had no memory of him. He sent me pictures and told me things he shouldnt know. I finally asked my daughter and she verified that I had been dating him. I FORGOT A WHOLE RELATIONSHIP!!! and I still do not remember him. The memory loss is not always short term. There are many other things that happened but that would make this way to long. That is why I find this whole concept so spooky. ECT has been around forever and is supposed to be fairly safe. I was told the memory loss would be "short-term" and I would regain my memory. That was not true for me. Just think what kind of trauma this stuff could cause..........

Precisiongirl said...

Total Recall freaks me out!!

My new blog is at

Hope you're well Deb


jane said...

I'm with you. I can see both good and bad extremes of this. As long as it's used as a last resort, like ECT, I think it will be okay. But if 1 wrong doctor has access to the process, that's when it can become dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I think this would be too terrifying for me. I'd rather have all my memories...good, bad and really ugly...than risk losing something of myself this way. Somehow it seems there is always someone who uses something meant for good in horrible ways. :::shiver:::

beautifuldreamer said...

I have DID, and the first time I saw this movie, I thought that whoever wrote it must have somehow peered inside my brain. It was freaky, but comforting at the same time. And who knew Jim Carrey could act so well in a dramatic role?

beautifuldreamer said...

P.S. As for removing traumatic memories: the memories of my childhood abuses and traumas are so interwoven with any good that I might have experienced during those years, that to try and remove the negative memories would result in erasing all memory.

It's not that I'm a masochist, but what happened to me has made me who I am today. And I need those good memories, as tainted as they may be by the outrageous abuse. They're all I've got.

A Flowered Purse said...

Thats kind of like eternal sunshine of a spotless mind.
I sat here for a few minutes wondering if I would ever do it. Go back to the time when my anxiety disorder started and forget it. I wonder what the backlashes of forgetting something would be.
Keep a diary every day like 50 first dates.
That is a very cool article
Have a great week

Wanda's Wings said...

Dr Deb
Thanks for your recent support. I have been super depressed and your comments have helped. Neat post as always. Thanks again.

Clare said...

Hmmm that is rather scary. I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and to think they could actually do such a thing is rather frightening ... especially if it was in the wrong hands.

Rose said...

research is amazing but I do fear that there are some who will misused this, that is my fear. I saw that movie too and I just shake my head now....

puhpaul said...

Scary. I sure hope it does get used for good purposes, but I can't imagine how this would be a useful tool.
It is interesting to see our knowledge of the universe and ourselves keep expanding.

east village idiot said...

I loved that movie! Wow. The research is incredible. But somehow I can't believe you can erase a memory completely and purge it from your body.

Meow said...

Hi Deb,
Just dropping by to wish you a great weekend.
Take care, Meow

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Deborah
And now a little magic with magical music to lighten the weekend
Inner life of a cell. - Enjoy!

Leah said...

How creepy....but interesting at the same time....I could definitely use this to erase the memory of all the stupid stuff I have ever done......haha!

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Raine,
Wow, I had not known anyone who experienced long term memory loss. That is so devasting. And moreso for you. Please forgive my flub.

Dear Precision,
I've updated you. Welcome back. I missed ya!

Dear Jane,
The more I think about it, the more it freaks me out.

Dear Traci,
Shiver me timbres too.

Dear Beautifuldreamer,
I had similar thoughts. The person(s) who wrote the movie had keen insight into things. It was a truly emotional movie, one that was hard to watch but mesmerizing at the same time. And I agree with you. I would not want my memories erased. I am who I am because of them.

Dear Dianna,
I didn't see 50 First Dates. I should. Happy weekend to you and yours.

dear Wanda,
I am so glad to know that blogvisits from friends help you feel better. Wishing you more peace in time.

Dear Clare,
When I saw the movie I thought, How silly - this could never happen. I guess I have to eat my words now.

Dear Rose,
I feel the same as as you do.

Dear Puhpaul,
I can't even fathom what kinds of things technology will enable us to do in the present and near-future.

Dear EVI,
I guess time will tell if it is possible. Gives me shivers nonetheless.

Dear Meow,
THanks, pal.

Dear Quasar,
Cool. I'll check it out.

Dear Leah, more embarassing situations. Tempting, but I'll pass. Somehow, they seem to humble me! So GLAD to hear from you!!!!


marie said...

I hope it is used for good as well. But we are all aware that some fool will try to use it for their own sick personal gain. It is a sad reality but a reality none the less.

lightfeather said...

Interesting concept but I am wondering how far we go that will impact our spiritual DNA that is every bit as important to us as our physical DNA. As always, you present very interesting information and something to chew on. Thanks!

Andrew said...

Hi Deb,
As you know, "How does human memory work?" has long been one of the holy grails of psychological research. I'm glad to hear of this progress. Now if we can decode the storage, imagine the foolproof lie detector tests and the possible invasion of privacy! More positive would be the ability to restore memories or to fix someone whose mental capacity has been compromised. The future looms...

Belizegial said...

Dear Dr. Deb,

I did not see any of the movies you cited. Will have to see if they are available at the video store.

However, I am with all of you who prefer to keep their memories, good or bad. Taking away any of them would effectively take away a piece of myself and who I am.

That doesn't mean it can't work for other procedures like those who suffer from postwar syndrome and the like.

The future does indeed loom....and the possibilities are endless.

kath said...

this scares the hell out of me..

Michelle said...

I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I loved that movie because it really makes you think. It made me wonder, if I could erase any memories, no matter how painful -- would I? Doesn't the sum total of our memories and xperiences make up who we are? I think society would be traveling a slippery slope if we started manipulating and erasing memories. I agree with anon -- if we start leaning on science and technology to ease painful memories, will our ability to cope, overcome and persevere suffer? On the flip side, the fact that this could unlock the mystery to Alzheimer's Disease sounds so promising! What a tragic disease --having better tools at our disposal to fight it would be a blessing. Hmmm...I believe this is what they call a conundrum! Have a good one!

Derrick Johnson said...

It was a great movie and there was an interesting discussion on about how that movie helped people with depression. I could not believe it, but am glad it helps others.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Marie,
Yes, sadly there are evil-doers out there.

Dear Lightfeather,
You raise important thoughts here too.

Dear Andrew,

The future DOES loom.

Dear Belize,
I think who I am is a result of all the good bad and traumatic. I worry about stuff like this.

Dear KAth,
I feel that way too.

Dear Michelle,
I think there will be always be "a teetering" that goes on with technology and humanity.

Dear Derrick,
I could see how the movie stimulated discussions about depression, trauma, etc.