Blogs by MidAmerica Nazarene University staff and faculty.
Erase Those Fears
For decades, neuroscience has been in full agreement on this issue. Once a memory has weathered the vulnerable early stage of neural processing, it becomes almost immutable. With ease of effort, we can now filter through a massive collection of personalized memories along with the necessary facts for our life's maintenance; social security numbers, passwords, addresses, and the car we drive. We delight in the brains capacity for retaining and retrieving this precious commodity we call memory.
But, it can also be a curse. Consider the bank cashier. Quietly, two disguised men walk into your bank brandishing guns. They order everyone to the floor, bind your hands behind your back and demand you give them the combination to the safe. Not knowing it, you try in vain to convince them of the fact. A crack to the back of your head with the butt of a gun tells you they are not convinced. You feel the warmth of your life's body fluid flowing down past your ear and pooling onto the floor. You hear another attacker say: "Go ahead and blow his head off if he doesn't tell you". You're convinced they will do just that, right there as you lay on the cold marble floor of the bank. But they don't. For some reason they run out empty-handed. You are safe. But your ordeal has just begun: violent nightmares, terrors at the mere hint of another persons aggressive behavior. You are no longer at east when behind the tellers window. You know you will soon have to quit your job. If only you could just forget this single frightful day.
Amazingly, brain researchers now believe this is possible. Each old memory, they are now finding out, when retrieved goes through the same vulnerable stage as it did originally. This is a re-consolidation phase of the memory retrieval. Some drugs, such as propranolol, when given following a memory retrieval seem to interfere with the re-consolidation processing and blunt the remembering. Some forms of behavioral therapy seem to be effective also in memory erasing.