Popular Science - 11.25.13 by Virginia Hughes
The idea of scientists manipulating memory does, naturally, sound a bit creepy. But it also points to some possible good: treatment for millions of people tormented by real memories. And that’s something worth remembering.
|Credit: Sam Kaplan|
Researchers have known for decades that memories are unreliable. They’re particularly adjustable when actively recalled because at that point they’re pulled out of a stable molecular state. Last spring, scientists published a study performed at the University of Washington in which adult volunteers completed a survey about their eating and drinking habits before age 16. A week later, they were given personalized analyses of their answers that stated—falsely—that they had gotten sick from rum or vodka as a teen. One in five not only didn’t notice the lie, but also recalled false memories about it and rated that beverage as less desirable than they had before. Studies like these point to possible treatments for mental health problems. Both PTSD and addiction disorders hinge on memories that can trigger problematic behaviors, such as crippling fear caused by loud noises or cravings brought about by the sight of drug paraphernalia.
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