For those haunted by thoughts of an old flame or a tragic accident, the chance to selectively erase memories might be tempting.
Now scientists have moved a step closer to that possibility by wiping away a month-old memory in genetically engineered laboratory mice, while leaving other memories unchanged.
The researchers boosted levels of a protein called α-CaMKII involved in memory storage and retrieval, just as mice recalled the pain of receiving a light shock. This had the effect of dispelling the memory.
“I don’t think it’s possible to use our method in humans, whether it’s now or in the future,” says Joe Tsien, a neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. “But it does suggest that perhaps you can look into downstream targets [of α-CaMKII]. Maybe some pharmaceutical company is looking at that.”