Lately, I have found myself becoming rather nostalgic about the past. This is not because I am not enjoying my present, but it is because I can feel time slipping away. I remember being an eager freshman ready to face the challenges that Warren Towers had to offer, and now here I am, a sophomore and soon-to-be junior, not quite ready to confront the real world.
Suddenly, high school appears to be a lot more enchanting than it really was. I will blame it on the rose-colored glasses — after all, Valentine’s Day was just a couple days ago. However, as much as we all want to cling on to our fondest memories, I am certain that we would gladly let go of some not-so-limelight-worthy moments. Well, lo and behold, thanks to scientific geniuses at Columbia University, we can get rid of our worst memories. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” doesn’t seem so fantastical now, does it?
According to the New York Post, Professor Merel Kindt from the University of Amsterdam tested the discovery and succeeded by squashing out a participant’s severe arachnophobia. The patient was exposed to a spider and immediately reacted the way you would expect anyone with any phobia would react. He was then given a drug called propranolol and could handle the arachnid with ease.
The idea of wiping out memories would certainly make for a great movie, but what are the real-life implications of having the ability to manipulate one’s memory? In the case of Kindt’s research, the drug served as a boon. Getting over an built-in fear is no small feat, and the fact that it was done in a matter of minutes is all the more fascinating. This discovery opens the door to resolving so many more fears. Obliterating the fear of heights, closed spaces and loud noises would make life a million times easier.
Plus, it’s cool to know that one day, I could possibly forget my phobia of snakes and not flinch every time one shows up on Animal Planet.
On a more serious note, being able to eliminate certain memories means that researchers can work with post-traumatic stress disorder. Along with bringing back wounds from the battlefield, soldiers are often scarred with traumatic recollections of their time spent in deployment. While options like therapy and psychoanalysis are available for recuperation, the treatment for PTSD is not a speedy process. Soldiers often experience difficulties readjusting back in society years after retirement, and influencing one’s memory could aid a rapid recovery.
Then again, every coin has two sides, and such memory-altering drugs can be easily misused. For instance, psychology professor Julia Shaw convinced her subjects that they had committed crimes they had not. Imagine using this drug on an innocent person on trial just to prove that they were guilty. While science has leapt ahead, the ethics of the whole situation still cannot be assessed properly.
Ultimately, the discovery was made to be used for benign and constructive reasons. Our minds are filled with memories of all sorts, just like one’s computer hard drive. Being able to pick and choose the memories that we want to remain with us forever and trashing the ones that are just taking up space would make it easier to live lives of our own construction.