Eternal Sunshine becomes reality: would you erase painful memories if you could?

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  • It’s a lucky lady who goes through life without experiencing a little bit of a heartache. Whether a difficult break-up or coming to terms with the loss of someone important to you, at times we would do anything to forget the past and move on.

    But given the choice, would you completely wipe painful memories from your mind? What was once just a hypothetical question, could become reality as clever American scientists might have found a way to do exactly that.

    If you’ve seen science fiction film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the concept will be familiar to you. Jim Carrey can’t get over his ex, Kate Winslet, and so he begins down a path of erasing all the memories of the happy times they shared together. For someone in the throes of a break-up, it can sound quite appealing, but would you really do it?

    Neurologists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckon they’ve identified a gene that can result in selective ‘memory extintion’. The gene, called Tet1, encourages the process which allows old memories to be replaced by new, helping you forget the past.

    To date, it’s only been tested on mice, so it could be a while before we’re queuing up to wipe all traces of that cheating ex from our minds, but the findings are definitely interesting.

    The rodents in question learnt that when going into a certain cage, they would receive an electric shock and began to show signs of fear in anticipation of the shock that was to come. After the introduction of the Tet1 gene, they could go into the same cage, receive no electric shock but display no signs of fear, suggesting they’d forgotten their past bad experiences.

    The scientists are hoping that this could signify a real breakthrough in treating post-traumatic stress disorder in the future.

    As for us? We’re not sure we’d go for it. While at times, there are undoubtedly things we’d rather forget in life, we tend to be of the mindset that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’re sticking with burning his underpants for now. It’s all the therapy we need.

    Are there any memories you’d wipe from your head, given the chance, or does our past make us who we are? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

    Where to next?
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