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.
Orwell's Memory Hole Looms Larger Thanks To Nvidia
'All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary.'
Pipefish Robot Checks Pipes Cheap
Just like capsule endoscopy, but for bigger pipes. That go underground.
Nifty New SDS Space Debris Sensor For ISS
'Their radars... could easily pinpoint the debris of the early Space Age.'
NanoRacks Space Station Module Concept Validated
Space junk into space architecture.
Nuclear Drones Could Fly For Years
'I sent my eyes on their rounds and tended my gallery of one hundred-thirty changing pictures...'
SciFiQ Science Fiction Writing Aid
'Books were just a commodity that had to be produced, like jam or bootlaces.'
Robot Only Faster, Not Better, At Recycling
'Whenever a robot finds something it can't identify straight off... it puts whatever it is in the hopper outside your window.'
Poland Starts With 1000 Warmate 'Suicide Drones'
'Royal Security had told the pods to electrocute you or blast you into chum.'
Dream Of Building Your Own Rocket?
Fiorello Bodoni, you inspire all of us.
Zero Mass 'Vaporators' Pull Drinking Water From The Air
Did you think of Star Wars?
Elon Musk Fears A 'Fleet-Wide Hack' Of Autonomous Vehicles
'Khan grinned. 'It's alive! Bu-wahhahahah!''
China Melts Tibetan Permafrost To Plant Forest
'Can you give us a microwave spotlight?'
iFlytek Doctor Robot First To Pass Medical Exams
Doctor shortage? No problem, we'll just use the autodoc.
Slaughterbot AI KIller Quadcopter Drones
'The real border was defended by... a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats.'
Do We Really Want Backflipping Robots?
Also includes wonderful blooper reel.
RNA-Based Biocomputing Device
Living things can sense and analyze complex signals in living cells.
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories