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 -
iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.
Watch What People Are Seeing Via Brain Scanning
'had managed to see through the other man's eyes as the other man, all unaware, washed their Zis limousine sixteen hundred meters away...' - Cordwainer Smith, 1958.
PRIMA Bionic Vision Restoration
'The VISOR... was a medical device used in the Federation to aid patients who have suffered loss of eyesight...'
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training For 'Downloading Skills'
'I know kung-fu.'
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.
A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something...'
Neuromorphic Computer Offers Non-von Neumann Architecture
Fires faster than brain at 1/10K energy.
Evorus Your Crowd-Powered Conversational Assistant
'...the DS [Daily Schedule] was suddenly transformed into a valued confidante.'
Mealworms Food Of The Future
Get your grubs on.
Alibaba's AI May Read Better Than You
'Mike ... could accept other languages and was doing technical translating - and reading endlessly.'
Musk's Boring Flamethrower
'Skeletons in tatters. Burned by a flesh gun'
Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...'
Nissan ProPILOT Slippers Are Self-Parking, Autonomous
Beyond science and fiction.
Atomristors - Atomic Memristors - Using Thin Nanomaterials
'I could almost feel those little tunnel junction neuristors working, forming their own interconnections as I operated it.'
Bigelow Prepares Inflatable Lunar Hotel
'Suddenly, hitherto unheard-of sums of money became available for investment in civilian orbital stations.'
Drunk Driver Of Tesla Claims Autopilot Was In Charge
'Mr. Garden, you are in no condition to drive.'
Medical Exoskeleton From Cyberdyne Gets FDA Approval
It's been a long road for HAL-5; I started writing about it in 2005.
Fungi-Infused Concrete Repairs Itself
'I noticed that curious mottled knots were forming, indicating where the room had been strained and healed faultily.'
Shiftwear Display Shoes
'He unlaced her shoe and glanced at its readout.'
NASA SEXTANT First With X-Ray Nav In Space
'You need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'
GM Introduces Cruise AV With No Steering Wheel
'How about the steering wheel?' ... 'I do not need one.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories