Magic pill erases bad memories?
Article Type: Brief article
Subject: Adrenergic beta blockers (Dosage and administration)
Adrenergic beta blockers (Research)
Memory, Disorders of (Drug therapy)
Memory, Disorders of (Research)
Pub Date: 06/22/2009
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Summer, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Product: Product Code: 2834372 Beta Blockers NAICS Code: 325412 Pharmaceutical Preparation Manufacturing SIC Code: 2834 Pharmaceutical preparations
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 218313976

If you could erase memories of painful or traumatic events, would you do it? The fantasy of being able to edit your past is a lot closer to being a reality than you might think. Dutch experiments with beta-blocker drugs have opened a new vein of research into eliminating fearful memories from the mind.

Researchers began by recreating fearful memories for the study's 60 participants by associating pictures of spiders with a mild electroshock delivered to their wrist. The participants were then divided into groups and administered either the beta-blocker pills nr placebo pills. Researchers then tested the "startle response" of volunteers; the same images were accompanied by sudden noises, and researchers judged how fearfully participants responded. The group that had taken the beta-blocker pill exhibited less fear than those who took the placebo. The group was tested again, once the drug was out of their system, and experienced the same disassociation of their original intense fears. As of this point, the drug only lessened the intensity of the emotional associations with the images rather than completely erasing the memory.

The results raise a myriad of ramifications to consider, both practical and ethical. Researchers can't say for certain the drug won't have a similar effect on pleasant memories. Dr. Daniel Sokol, Lecturer in Medical Ethics at St. George's, University of London, argues that such memories are important for people to learn from their mistakes. John Harris, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester, points out that erasing painful memories of violence may also take away the victim's ability to testify against assailants.

BBC News. (2009, February 16). Heart pill to banish bad memories. Retrieved February 16, 2009. from
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