Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind: Actual Techniques of Traumatic Memory Erasure

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“You can erase someone from your mind. Getting them out of your heart is another story” — this is one of the heartbreaking lines from the movie, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. This movie shows how hard it is to forget someone after making them one of the most significant persons in someone’s life.

Aside from being a tearjerker, the romantic movie also features technology where they advertise that the bad memories from the past can be removed entirely from someone else’s mind by erasing the memory of the person who caused the bad memory from the mind of the patient. During the time the movie was released, the idea of having this kind of technology seemed very far-fetched, but today, there are reports that scientists are working on memory-erasing technology.

Having a sad and traumatic memory can cripple someone and it usually makes them haunted by their past. Having a way to manage either emotional or psychological trauma is important, since without one, it may leave the person left struggling with their upsetting emotions from time to time, according to Help Guide.

Erasing Bad Memories

Traumatic memories can haunt a person’s present life and affect the quality of life that they currently have. It can trigger them to have intrusive thoughts which can lead to anxiety and stress. Even though psychological therapies work on managing traumatic memories, some scientists want to look for ways where they can help their patients lessen the impact of having these memories.

In a report by Medical News Today, they stated that a team of scientists from five research institutions across three countries: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Reina Sofia-CIEN Foundation in Madrid, Spain, New York University, and the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, have been looking for a scientific and novel way to reduce the occurrence of distressing memories and also minimize its psychological impact.

Furthermore, Ana Galarza Vallejo, one of the authors of the study, stated that since established memories are already fixed, it cannot be easily modified. However, their new study also explored the idea of acting on disturbing memories by interfering with them with the use of general anesthesia or protein synthesis inhibition in order to stabilize it over a period of time.

Initial studies used animal models to test the effectivity of their research. These previous studies have suggested that reactivating an established memory can make it vulnerable to modifications, thus affecting the impact of these memories on the person’s everyday life.

Anaesthetic Drug Against Bad Memory

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The Independent UK recently reported on their website that one of the ways to modify and control the patient’s traumatic memory is by giving them a dose of anesthetic which could be useful in helping them to recover from the recent trauma or even cure the phobia that they have.

Researchers from five leading research institutes have stated that the drug ‘propofol’ has been essential in making traumatic memories weaker after administering them to the patient. The report also mentioned that this drug is also effective in removing fear and phobias to helping in managing post-traumatic stress disorder. Likewise, researchers are still looking for ways to make the best out of the positive effects in patients.

“What was interesting about the effects of propofol was that it was very selective for the emotional component of the story,” said Dr. Bryan Strange of the Polytechnic University of Madrid. The researchers had to test the idea by asking 50 participants to watch different slideshows which showed traumatic and emotional stories. A week after, they were shown parts of the slideshow to see if it stayed in their memories, before being injected with propofol.

Half of the participants were asked to recall the story and they found out that those participants had a hard time remembering the reactivated story. Researchers also believed that if the unpleasant memories can be isolated, and phobias and even traumatic memories from an accident can be isolated, too.

Lifestyle Against Bad Memories

Aside from medical interventions, the American Psychological Association also suggested that lifestyle interventions such as exercise and proper sleeping patterns can affect the way a person processes and handles the traumatic memory that they have. Having moderate to intense physical exercise also showed a reduction in PTSD symptoms.

“Sleep is key for learning, and people with PTSD show reduced or disrupted sleep. Recent data show that extinction of conditioned fear occurs more effectively in the morning versus the evening, suggesting that there may be optimal times of the day for exposure therapy,” Gregory J. Quirk, Ph.D., from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine stated.

The report also stated that hormone levels had an influence on the effectiveness of the treatment and estrogen activates parts of the human brain which are responsible for removing fear and anxiety.

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