Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One pill makes you smaller makes you tall ...

I found this article interesting on a number of levels ...

Pill to erase bad memories: Ethical furore over drugs 'that threaten human identity'

By David Derbyshire

A drug which appears to erase painful memories has been developed by scientists.

The astonishing treatment could help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and those whose lives are plagued by hurtful recurrent memories. But British experts said the breakthrough raises disturbing ethical questions about what makes us human.

Experiments on animals had already shown that the drugs - beta-adrenergic receptor blockers - can interfere with how the brain makes and remakes memories of frightening events. Beta blockers appear to work because each time someone recalls a powerful emotional memory the memory is 'remade' by the brain.The drug interferes with this re-creation of the stressful memory - and prevents the brain renewing it. In theory, it could eradicate memories of traumatic events that happened years ago. It might also help patients overcome phobias, obsessions, eating disorders and even sexual hang-ups.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental-health charity Mind, said he was concerned about the 'fundamentally pharmacological' approach to problems such as phobias and anxiety. He told Channel 4 News that the unintended consequences 'could include the eradication of positive memories'.

Professor Neil Burgess of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience told the programme that wide-scale use of the drug was a long way off.

'All they've shown so far is that the increased ability to startle someone if they are feeling a bit anxious is reduced,' he said.

The ability to remove memories has been the stuff of science fiction for decades.

In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which starred Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey, a couple used a technique to erase memories of each other when their relationship turned sour.

The full article here:

Geee .... Would you take such a pill? I can see it may work for a distressed victim of a rape for example, but what of all the other "side effects"? Even of you leave criminals aside - who could use it on themselves to avoid punishment or on their victims to erase their memories - bad and good memories make us the persons we are today. How comes the answer to everything nowdays is 'here, have a pill'. I think there are already so many other, healthier ways around bad memories. I also think many would agree that though some memories aren't sweet, they shape the person you are, by erasing these would be like losing part of yourself.

1 comment:

Andy C said...

Scary stuff. But I do appreciate the reference in your title to White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane (at least I think this one was pre-Starship days).