New York, NY: Researchers from Raboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands have discovered that it may be possible to erase specific, painful memories from an individual’s mind. The findings come after researchers conducted a study in which participants were exposed to an emotionally distressing story then given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Participants in this group could barely recall the story a day later.
Although researchers say the results are promising, they are still far from being able to completely erase certain memories. “There are still some oddities with the therapy,” said neuroscientist Carl Headley, professor at New York University. “When some participants were tested by memories treated with ECT, they still appeared to have bits and pieces remaining. One subject bawled like crazy after being exposed to an instrumental snippet of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,’ despite insisting that they’d never heard the song before.”
“We’re seeing a lot of responses that indicate something still lingers when exposed to painful memories,” Headley noted. “So we’re not there yet. But as soon as we get there, I’m getting rid of The Iron Giant.” Headley informed us that he hasn’t been the same since he took his young children to see the movie upon its release approximately fifteen years ago.
“The researchers asked me, ‘What would you think if Johnny Cash covered a Nine Inch Nails song,’ and at first I was just laughing,” recalled participant Ben Grammar. “But then I almost immediately switched to hysterical crying. They let me listen to the song after that, but when they told me there was also a music video I had apparently seen before, I told them we were done.” Grammar told us he didn’t want to be re-exposed to another level of “crippling sadness.”
Elizabeth Welker, professor of psychology at Stanford University, told reporters that she was impressed with the researchers’ findings and would even consider undergoing the therapy herself. “Everyone has traumatic memories that they would love to just get rid of,” Welker stated. “We could get rid of things like past abuse or memories that cause the patient significant anxiety that really don’t matter anymore, like that time at the fair when you were ten and your pants fell down and everyone laughed.”
Welker stated that she would erase the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because it reminded her of a breakup of her own. She also informed us that she realized the irony of that.