Can we erase unwanted memories as in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’?


A device that can erase individual memories.

Where did you see?

in the movie Eternal sunshine for a clean mind (2004) Having Clementine and Joel erase all memories of each other in Memory Erasing Company.

How close are we?

Heartbreak is not only the source of countless songs, poems and stories, but according to Eternal sunshine for a clean mind Also a great reason to get rooted in your mind and toss those painful memories of your ex into the trash.

If it happened in real life, that’s for sure: it wouldn’t be like the movie. There, the therapist sees parts of the brain light up behind a computer screen while Joel thinks of Clementine, after which he deletes the memories there one by one. Just… that’s nonsense. For example, you are processing what you saw in a different brain area than the emotions you felt while doing so. So you can forget about the specific bright areas of the brain. Memories do not live in one place.

However, there are scientists who hope to be able to identify the total brain pattern of traumatic memories with artificial intelligence, in the process they – in a term that fits a science fiction movie – They deliberately ‘decode neurofeedback’

The question is whether this is necessary at all. Because even without knowing the exact pattern, you can adjust the memory. The best known example is EMDR (Sensitive eye movement and reprocessing† This eye movement therapy aims to overload working memory while the patient recalls a painful memory. By following the therapist’s rapid hand movements with the eye at the same time, working memory overflows and the bad memory becomes fuzzy and less emotionally charged, the theory goes.

Despite its seemingly high level of deception, EMDR has been scientifically proven to work — although it’s still not a panacea that heals people all at once, which some people claim it’s for permanently. But: Technology obliterates the emotion associated with memory. Never completely erased such a memory from the brain.

Maybe even that will be possible someday. In 2014, brain scientist Maren Kroes of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, had already discovered that he could erase memories in test subjects by means of so-called ECT, which is to deliver an electric shock, he wrote at the time. in trade magazine natural neuroscience† Slightly severe for heart failure, but possibly appropriate for PTSD.

The subjects – who were already undergoing treatment for major depression – were shown two emotionally charged stories, supported by a photo series. Immediately before the treatment, remember one of these two stories by viewing the photo series again. And guess what: After a day of treatment, participants gradually forgot this story, while the memory of the other story remained. It was research directly related in the media to the 2004 film.

However, it is doubtful at best that such a thing would ever be possible for the complex and interconnected memories, collected over long periods in your life, for example, of your partner. Therefore, in real life, you will “unfortunately” have to continue to remember your ex even after a painful farewell.

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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