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Erasing bad memories

Brain memories
Brain memories

Scientists from the University of Toronto are now close to turning science fiction into science fact – they believe that they have found a technique to erase bad memories from our brains.

The method involves targeting a small number of so-called ‘fear’ neurons in the brain in order to eliminate traumatic memories.

The scientists have tried out the technique on mice and they claim the same technique could be used in humans, however there are significant ethical implications in doing this.

The ability to erase bad memories could help treat things like PTSD and drug addictions. But is it really desireable to remove bad memories given that bad experiences can also be useful in helping us learn from our mistakes?

Earlier research demonstrated that when memory is created collections of neurons known as ‘engrams’ fire in a particular pattern – certain neurons compete to be recruited to an engram underlying a fearful memory.

Out of the millions of neurons in the brain, it is just a few that constitute memories related to fear or a threatening situation.

Significantly, the Canadian researchers have identified how to flag up those neurons engaged in fear memory by over-producing a certain brain protein.

The flagged up neurons can then be genetically removed and consequently erase a specific memory without affecting other memories.

Working with mice, the scientists realised that something like a cocaine addiction could be overcome by wiping out emotional memories associated with taking the drug.

Underlining the ethical problems associated with their discovery, the scientists suggest however, that a drug that targets and deactivates the bad memories rather than erasing them is a better proposition.

So maybe in the near future, we should be able to take a pill to help us forget somehing like a painful love break up.

In the absence of the wonder pill, here’s how you train your brain to get rid of  bad memories

To forget those negative thoughts coming back to haunt you, researchers suggest trying to push out the context of the memory.

For example, if you associate a song with a break-up, listen to the song in a new environment.

Try listening to it as you exercise at the gym, or add to a playlist you listen to before a night out.

This way, your brain will associate with a positive feeling.

If a memory of a scene from a horror film haunts you, watch the same scene during the daytime.

Or watch it without sound but play a comedy clip over the top.

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