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In the movie, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", the character Clementine goes to a doctor who has the extraordinary claim that he can erase the memories of that painful relationship right out of one's mind. Seem farfetched in real life?


Doctors have discovered a drug used for treating high blood pressure may also block the memories of traumatic moments in one's life. The drug propranolol inhibits adrenaline in the brain, which adversely affects the amygdala, or emotional area of memory. It allows the person to remember the facts of the incident (stored in the hippocampus), yet seem to feel neutral about the traumatic memory. The research has been replicated, and the findings have been supported.

In an article published in 2012, propranolol is being combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help "permanently" erase the fear/memory that is producing an anxiety disorder in the patient. According to the authors, it gives an opportunity to interfere with memory reconsolidation, and promote extinction of the memory, not just behavioral changes produced from CBT only. The findings of the study did not support the hypothesis that propranolol would result in memory extinction. "Failed" studies still build the knowledge of the field.


Will there be a time in the near future that we will be able to go to the doctor and get a prescription to get that man out of our head? As the movie shows, even though it is painful, there are wonderful memories simultaneously being destroyed. Would one want to lose both?


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You bring up a very interesting point. While traumatic memories would be erased from our memories, some of the good ones might go along with it. It seems improbable for a treatment to be able to decide what qualifies as a happy or sad memory as well. On top of this, ethics come into play on whether or not it is right to erase one's memories. Memories shape us into the people we are, whether they are good or bad, happy or sad.

If the drug did not extinguish the memory, did it at least reduce the emotional response as you suggest earlier? Does the drug have to be taken immediately after the memory? Be sure to use the link function to make your link clickable.

This is a very interesting blog. Personally I do not think I would want my memories erased because for every memory that you have you learned something and if you get rid of all of the bad ones then you may eventually repeat them. How exactly does this drug work? If they tested it many times and if worked does it at suppress the memory at all?

Wow, this is very incredible that a drug used to treat blood pressure can erase memory as well. Shows yet again just how connected everything with in the human body is. It's intriguing though to know that if a horrible memory has been inhibiting one from a normal life it could be cured by merely erasing the memory all together! It is concerning however, that the drug cannot accurately distinguish between the good and the bad memories, and therefore could pose a threat to every single memory that a human has created.

I really enjoyed your post, it was exciting and informative. I think you raised some excellent points regarding memories, and at the same time tied it in some information from the begging chapters. You talked about how the study is being repeated (Peer Review) and tested, tying in the hypothesis testing. The power that this drug has is incredible and it will be interesting to see how and what they treat with it. As you said it could be used for anxiety, but what about PTSD, or other memory related disorders?

I watched "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in high school and it was a very interesting movie. It ended up being really sad that she had her memories erased because that is a terrible thing to do. If this technology is even a possibility in life, that is actually a scary thought to think about. All memories and experiences, good or bad, shape who people are, and the risk of altering the mind to erase past memories seems too great.

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This page contains a single entry by rihax003 published on March 4, 2012 9:26 PM.

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