PITTSBURGH (CBS) — Imagine having all your bad memories erased from your mind.
In classic movies such as “Men in Black,” it all looks like a simple task to make memories evaporate. But now, scientists have made groundbreaking inroads that they say make erasing bad memories more of a possibility than ever before.
At the University of California-Davis, Dr. Brian Wiltgen has already proven it in studies with mice.
“What we do here is deliver the laser stimulation,” he said.
Deep in the brain is a small structure called the hippocampus, it works as our memory bank. Using pulses of laser light, he was able to ultimately get rid of selected bad memories.
“We were able to turn off a certain memory in mice,” Wiltgen said.
Mount Sinai neuroscientist Dr. Paula Croxson says it could potentially have many other applications from easing traumatic memories of child abuse to healing the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It might actually be possible to take out some of the aspects of the memory that are most unpleasant by having the people be able to recall the memory, but not experience the emotion and the fear associated with it,” Croxson said.
She says the research could ultimately lead to innovative treatments for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
“We might be able to reactivate those memories and maybe find a new way for patients to access the locked memories and get some of their memory function back,” she said.
Scientists emphasize all of these studies so far have been on mice and it could be years before we know if the same results would apply to humans.