Scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains to erase distressing memories, part of an ambitious quest to better treat ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.
In an experiment, patients were first shown a troubling story, in words and pictures. A week later they were reminded about it and given electroconvulsive therapy, formerly known as electroshock. That completely wiped out their recall of the distressing narrative.
“It’s a pretty strong effect. We observed it in every subject,” said Marijn Kroes, neuroscientist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and lead author of the study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
The hope is that one day it may be possible to selectively eliminate a person’s unwanted memories or associations linked to smoking, drug-taking or emotional trauma.
This is an extremely promising tool for helping folks overcome serious troubles. Like many powerful tools, though, it can be very dangerous.
“Distressing memories.” Distressing for whom? The individual? Or Government? Rudimentary efforts have already been tried: the Soviet Union’s Gulag. It’s been warned of for a long time: Clockwork Orange.
Now that this sort of thing is coming to fruition, the tool wants, badly, close monitoring and control, and not only by our government.