For three straight days, I’ve written and rewritten “go to 46th and 5th” on my right palm. Retracing the faded letters yet again, I’ve decided, today’s the day. The reason being I’ve been wanting to get everything written by author & journalist Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer recently wrote an article in this month’s Wired about the future of neuroscience and the ability to ultimately rid our minds of painful memories. The “forgetting pill” as it’s been labeled will be able to target specific memories and erase them. Lehrer writes, “…the act of remembering will become a choice.” No, it’s not just like Gondry’s 2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s more. “Because of the compartmentalization of memory in the brain–the storage of different aspects of a memory in different areas–the careful application of PKMzeta synthesis inhibitors and other chemicals that interfere with reconsolidating should allow scientists to selectively delete aspects of a memory.” So yeah, it’s just that easy.
I find the topic of memory and recall fascinating. I think the big “aha” or “say what?” moment of my college education was discovering that memory isn’t stored in these nice compartmental folders that we seek and use to pull up old information. It’s the process of neural firing, and again not “facts and events from the past that stick in the brain.” As memory is recalled, it is changing and evolving. Despite our greatest efforts, it is never an objective truth. Todd Saktor, neuroscientist at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has been researching memory erasure, specifically, the PKMzeta inhibitor. According to the article, Sacktor believes the use of these inhibitors will not initially erase the painful memory, but rather the physical pain associated with that memory. However, Saktor also fears that the future with these drugs will give rise to a dystopian world where ruthless dictators can erase genocides and other painful memories. Karim Nader, another neuroscientist argues “Anything can change memory. This technology isn’t new. It’s just a better version of an existing biological process.”
The mind is more powerful than we give it credit. Our thoughts are incredibly influential on our physical bodily health. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last 5 years as a person with chronic migraine, it’s that memory can destroy your well-being. Just the thought of pain will result in pain, Lehrer writes “the body remembers.” Fortunately, I do not suffer from other memory afflictions like PTSD, which is what Lehrer’s article focuses on in Wired. I suppose this blog post doesn’t fit within the boundaries of post-graduate blues or preserving against the greatest odds, but I suppose it’s me vs. my memory and the unrelenting gnawing of my thought to do this task, buy a gosh darn book.