In science nowadays, if you can dream it, you can believe it will exist within the next few decades. After all, mending a broken heart is no longer just a metaphor. If you were a fan of the 2004 hit “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, you’re in for a treat. Erasing memories associated with fear is now possible, thanks to professors at the University of California and a bunch of mice.
“Using low-frequency stimulations with light, we were able to erase the fear memory by artificially weakening the connections conveying the signals of the sensory cue – a high-pitch tone in our experiments – that are associated with the aversive event, namely, the foot shock.”
The technique is called optogenetics. Scientists use light to “edit” genetically modified brain cells until fear signals are wiped completely. After initial testing, mice with an initial fear of high-pitched noises no longer responded to triggers. Sadly, the method doesn’t apply to human brain cells. If you’re afraid of clowns, it’s unfortunately going to stay that way. The study itself, however, remains valuable.
“This study expands our understanding of how adaptive fear memory for a relevant stimulus is encoded in the brain,”
“It is also applicable to developing a novel intervention to selectively suppress pathological fear while preserving adaptive fear in PTSD.”
It may be a bummer, but considering the speed at which we develop new technologies, we may just have to wait a while longer.