Remember implications if you ever choose to forget

By Stephanie Saviola

Have you ever done something you regretted and had that “I wish I could erase that from my memory” feeling, much like in the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?” Ex-lovers played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet have each other erased from their memories. The fictional film follows the couple during their procedures and the regrets they have after the memory loss.

As daunting as the film is, it may be a reality in the near future.

Neuroscientist Dr.  Andre A. Fenton, a professor at New York University has dedicated years to studying how human brains store memories. Fenton and his colleagues identified a molecule called PKMzeta, which is responsible for maintaining memories, specifically long-term memory, in the brain. If PKMzeta is blocked, the memory is too.

Fenton recently made a top 10 list of scientists to watch in 2011 compiled by The New York Times. Several weeks ago, I watched a video about Fenton’s discovery through his testing on rats.

In the video, Fenton also read emotional letters people sent him about their interest in his findings if procedures for erasing certain memories were made available.

Fenton’s response to the letters was a bit emotional when he teared up from a reader’s response on wanting to forget his painful past, if a procedure was

made available.

A procedure to erase memories, especially bad ones, could be extremely beneficial to those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. Soldiers returning home from war, rape victims and those who have lost a child or a spouse could gain a bit of relief from the pains lingering in

their memories.

But what about all the people who make hasty, irrational decisions like that spontaneous  wedding in Las Vegas or that hideous tattoo that seemed like a good idea during a spring break trip? Unlike a quick wedding annulment, how can you regain memories once they have been permanently erased from the brain?

While at first, it may seem like a good idea to have a bad break-up erased from your mind, after healing and coping, living through something like that is usually a beneficial learning experience.

Memories—good and bad—are such an important part of our existence. They help distinguish, identify and shape us into unique individuals.

The repercussions of such an extreme irreversible act could be detrimental if made available. Though his research and discoveries are incredible, they should be used with caution and heavily regulated, only making them available to people who need it most like soldiers.

These, of course, are what-if scenarios. There are no reported plans that this is what’s going to happen in the future, just talks of possibilities. But if this does become a reality, I hope people think twice before going through with it.