After seeing Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind in theaters years ago, I'll admit I definitely thought it that the idea of actually having access to a pill that could remove parts of your memory sounded like a pretty good idea.
Granted, it comes inside a pretty mixed bag but who wouldn't entertain the idea of removing some very painful memories from your brain if such a thing were possible? In the next 10 years, it may be.
University of Leicester researchers identified a protein called lipocalin-2 that the brain produces in response to stress. Lipocalin-2 reduces junctions that brain cells use called "mushroom spines," which help us remember things we once learned. By artificially bumping up the level of the protein, the scientists say they can reduce future anxiety associated with painful memories.
Researcher Dr Robert Pawlak (CORR) said: "Mushroom spines help us remember things we once learned - but it is not always good.
‘Some very stressful events would better be forgotten quickly or they may result in anxiety disorders. There is a constant battle of forces in our brain to help maintain the right balance of thin and mushroom spines – or how much to remember and what better to forget.
‘We have identified a protein that the brain produces in response to stress in order to reduce the number of mushroom spines and therefore reduce future anxiety associated with stressful events.'
Sure, it sounds risky —and rightfully so since something like this is bound to come with risks aplenty— but for sufferers of PTSD and the like, it could prove very helpful indeed.
There are certainly some painful memories that may prove to be quite helpful to us even if they do make us cringe or tear up —learning experiences, relationships that were "bad" but also very good and thus allowed us to know what we want and don't want in regard to future relationships— but to sufferers of PTSD, holding onto memories of deeply traumatic events oftentimes don't seem to be doing very much good.
Because of all of this, this pill is stirring up quite the controversy. Yes, you're never going to be forced to take this pill but if it did have the power to completely erase certain memories from your mind, isn't it possible that, like in the film, you would choose to erase these memories and later regret doing so? Would it fundamentally change the person you are? Would you do things without realizing why you do them or be skittish about people or places and not fully understand why?
I'm a bit torn, personally. On one hand, I could do without certain memories that I feel cause far more harm than good, but maybe there's a reason we've never been allowed to erase them before now. Maybe all those people who say our greatest difficulties result in our greatest strengths are actually right in the end.
Personally, I'm okay with waiting to see if they're right.