Memory-erasing drugs would be possible if forgetting were not a passive process, as it often seems to be. However, according to Yi Zhong, a neurogeneticist at Tsinghua University in Beijing and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, there is "an active system to erase memory, completely independent from the mechanisms to form memories."
(Drosophila remembering: "it's on the tip of my labellum")
Zhong and his colleagues made their discovery by training fruit flies with two odors, one of which was paired with a foot shock to the insects as they smelled it. That experience normally leads flies to avoid the shocking odor in favor of the alternative.
In the first set of experiments, the researchers left the flies alone after their training session was over, later testing them at specific points in time as their memory weakened. In a second experiment, the researchers disrupted the odor-shock memories by exposing flies to a new pair of odors. Finally, they reversed the flies' lesson, delivering the foot shock in conjunction with the opposite odor.
In all cases, the flies forgot what they learned previously, which the researchers suspect was due to a small protein known as Rac that switched on with the passage of time. This molecule switched on faster when the insects either got distracted by new experiences or confused by conflicting information.
Philip K. Dick made excellent use of this idea. In his 1966 short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale he writes about selectively erasing memories:
Someone, probably at a government military-sciences lab, erased his conscious memories; all he knew was that going to Mars meant something special to him, and so did being a secret agent...
(Read more about erasing memories)
Even earlier, Jack Vance wrote about the idea of "extirpating memory" in his 1956 novel To Live Forever:
"Here it is — anti-heptant. Water-soluble, non-toxic, highly effective. When it is present in the cerebral blood supply, it acts like the eraser button of a recorder, canceling whatever circuits are active, but inactive toward those not in use."
(Read more about anti-heptant)
Researchers have also developed a technique that Detects False Memories; or, have better memories than you actually have in Hack Your Own Reality - The Virtual Way. Read more details about Zhong's research in Livescience; thanks to reader wormcast for the story tip and references.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/20/2010)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )
Related News Stories -
Will The FDA Approve This Antiaging Drug?
'So what we're looking for now is... an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug.' - James Blish, 1951.
EVE Artificial Womb For Lambs (For Now)
'In the crimson darkness, stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones...' - Aldous Huxley, 1932.
Bees Royal Jelly Helps Wounds Heal Faster
'An alien drug... used by an insect race.' - Clifford Simak, 1961.
3D Printed Bionic Chinese Skin
Designer skin for everyone!
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Biggest HiSeas 'Mars Mission' Problem? No Internet
I think sf writers have this covered!
Clever Electric Truck Generates More Power Than It Uses
Better than a fictional electrotruck!
Eden-ISS, Greenhouse In Antarctica
'With this kind of light we could get the gardens going again."
Make Space Tools On The Spot (Like Moties)
'A moment ago it was squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon...'
Will Robots Be Moral If We Raise Them Like Our Children?
'The birth of Machine, my robot child...'
Foldable Galaxy Phones, I Swear They're Coming (Maybe)
How hard can it be?
Bacteria Behave Differently In Space
'The Republic struggled to control its Sours...'
Brain Connected To Internet - ‘Brainternet'
Artificial Spider Silk
You can also use it to make a roof - on an asteroid.
MIT Tunes Ions For Frictionless Surface - Superlubricity!
'My telelubricator here neutralizes the interatomic bonds the surface of any solid...'
Seiko Astron Always Knows Your Time Zone
'Harrington glanced at his wrist watch - a bulky affair - and whistled.'
Robot Buddhist Priest Chants, Drums
'He crossed the waiting room to the Padre booth...'
Koniku Kore, Mouse Brain-Based Chip, Detects Explosives
'As a matter of fact, this mouse is going to keep on thinking forever.'
CNH Industrial Autonomous Tractor Concept Video
'...the tiny red glints of self-guided tractors.'
The Neuroon Open Sleep Tracker For Lucid Dreaming
'Leads trail away from insertion points on her face and wrist... to a lucid dreamer on the bedside shelf.'
Siri Now Smoother, Perkier (Thanks, Deep Learning!)
'Good morning, Dr. Chandra. This is Hal.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories