"For more than two decades, researchers have been studying the chemical--a protein called alpha-CaM kinase II--for its role in learning and memory consolidation. To better understand the protein, a few years ago, Joe Tsien, a neurobiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, in Athens, created a mouse in which he could activate or inhibit sensitivity to alpha-CaM kinase II."
Tsien’s research showed that specific memories were erased when mice recalled long-term memories during a period when the brain over-expressed alpha-CaM kinase II.
How exactly was this established? Mice were placed in a chamber. In this chamber, a tone sounded, which followed a mild shock. The mice then learned to associate the chamber and tone with the shock. In other words, the tone signalled that a shock would ensue. The mice were placed in another chamber a month later, which provided sufficient time for the memory to become long-term. The researchers then over-expressed the alpha-CaM kinase II protein and again, sounded the tone. Amazingly, the mice showed no fearful reaction to the tone as they had done so previously. However, when placed in the initial chamber, the mice demonstrated the same fearful response they had a month prior. “Tsien had, in effect, erased one part of the memory (the one associated with the tone recall) while leaving the other intact.”
Imagine the possibilities! Imagine a drug that could manipulate the brain’s sensitivity to this protein enough to erase parts of our long-term memories and completely alter our current state of mind.
The idea could mean a huge relief for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It could also prove to be very useful in treating a variety of phobias. In addition, it could be used to reform criminals, strengthen relationships, and alleviate pain and suffering. Practically any irrational behaviour that is being caused by a 'bad' memory could be repaired and replaced by rational behaviour with hardly any effort. The time and money saved from long-term therapy could be very substantial.
But, unethically, we are toying with the very intricate details that define our own unique make-up. Despite this immorality, could the discovery really be more useful or harmful?
Selectively Deleting Memories