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小小记忆“橡皮擦” Pills to Erase Bad Memories


  The idea of using technology to erase specific memories from people’s brains sounds like science fiction.

  Ad: Here at Lacuna, we have perfected a safe, effective technique for the focused erasure[擦除] of troubling memories.

  That’s an ad for a fictional company in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now scientists say they actually have been able to get rid of one specific fearful memory in a number of people by using a common blood-pressure drug.

  Joseph LeDoux studies memory at New York University. He says if you picture your memory as a kind of storage cabinet[橱柜] that’s full of unchanging stuff, you’re wrong.

  LeDoux: Each time you take a memory out, each time it’s retrieved[找回], it’s got to be restored. And sometimes when you restore it, you put in additional information. This is a good thing because it allows you to update the memory.

  It also means the memory can be changed if you catch it at the right point. In fact, the memory can even be erased. LeDoux has done studies with rats showing he can wipe out a fearful memory using certain drugs. Now scientists have done a similar experiment in people. Meryl Kynt led the study at the University of Amsterdam. First, she wanted to give the student volunteers a new, fearful memory. So they came into a lab, sat in front of a computer screen and were shown pictures of big spiders.

  Kynt: Two different pictures: One spider’s on a shoulder, the other one on the…on the leaves of a…a plant.

  The study was designed so that only one of the spider images would become linked to a scary memory. Every time that image appeared, the student would get a mild electric shock on the wrist.

  Kynt: During the procedure[过程], you see that a fear evolves[发展]. So they fear only one spider, and they don’t fear the other spider.

  The students were sent home with their nasty[令人厌恶的] spider memory. And the next day, the researchers tried to erase that memory. They gave the students either a placebo[安慰剂] pill or a real drug—a common blood pressure drug, a beta blocker注1 called Propranolol. Then they showed the students the picture of the scary spider to make them recall the memory of being shocked. When people who got the drug were later shown both the good and the bad spiders, their reaction was identical[同样的]. Their learned fear response was gone.

  Kynt: It was completely eliminated[消除].

  She says if you asked them, “Do you remember the scary spider?” they said, “Sure.”
  Kynt: Because they were aware that this picture was followed by a shock, but the emotional impact, the emotional meaning was gone since there was no fear response anymore.
  Some researchers, like Kareem Nadir at McGill University, have already been studying whether this drug can be used as a treatment for people who are tormented[折磨] by painful memories. People with post-traumatic stress disorder注2 are asked to recount[细述] troubling memories and are given the drug. Nadir says the preliminary[初步的] results are promising.

  Nadir: Some of these guys have had PTSD for like 30 years, and then, like, they feel better.

  He knows that some people have raised ethical[伦理的] concerns about the idea of weakening specific memories with a drug. But he thinks if people are suffering, it’s something worth trying.
  《暖暖内含光》(Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)电影简介
小小记忆“橡皮擦” Pills to Erase Bad Memories  这部电影又译作《美丽心灵的永恒阳光》,讲述了一个带有奇幻色彩的爱情故事,由金·凯瑞(Jim Carrey)和凯特·温丝莱特(Kate Winslet)主演。