“A safe technique for the focused erasure of troubling memories”

Scientists in New York have been working on methods like the kind of thing only seen in movies: blocking recollections, which may eventually help people with Alzheimer’s disease, drug addiction and alcoholism.

The 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was the stuff of fiction. In the film, Jim Carrey’s character Joel erases all the painful memories of his relationship with Kate Winslet’s Clementine, wiped clean through a non-surgical procedure.

Due to a scientific breakthrough, the plot of this Hollywood film could become reality. Researchers at Brooklyn’s SUNY Downstate medical center have recreated the movie’s technique on rats by tinkering with a memory molecule called PKM-Zeta.

"You should be able to erase memory if that’s the molecule that really stores memory. And you should be able to erase it with an inhibitor of that molecule,” explains lead researcher Dr. Andre Fenton from SUNY Downstate medical center.

Lead researcher Dr. Fenton says the inhibitor is called ZIP. Once injected into a rat’s brain, it forgot what part of its small chamber gives off electrical shocks. Before the injection, the rat learned very well which area to avoid.

Dr. Fenton says the real goal is to eventually learn how memory is stored, and how to change one recollection without affecting others.

"Let's just fantasize that we'd be able to do that. Almost anything that you can connect to a mental experience would become modifiable,” dreams Dr. Fenton.

This means that creating more PKM-Zeta molecules can increase memory, help ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Hypothetically, this would also deal with trauma, chronic fears or addictions like smoking or drinking – all of which could possibly be wiped clean by deleting the memory of the behavior stored in the brain through experience.

If and when memory editing becomes available, it will be a life-altering option. Considering that you are the sum of the experiences that you have, deleting what you remember may mean deleting a part of your personality.