Science: Drugs May Be Able to Erase Bad Memories

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Photo: NYM

Science: It's always trying to find crazy new ways to improve our lives, one-upping itself time and time again. The latest idea comes from researchers at the University of Montreal, who say taking the drug metyrapone may be able to stop the brain from recalling bad memories. Does this sound like the plot of Michel Gondry's trippy yet moving 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? That's because it is:


Thirty-three men participated in the study, which involved learning a story composed of neutral and negative events. Three days later, they were divided into three groups - participants in the first group received a single dose of metyrapone and a second group received a double dose. The third group received a placebo. Group participants were then asked to remember the story. In fours days, after the medication had cleared from the body, individual memory performance was reevaluated. “We found that the men in the group who received two doses of metyrapone were impaired when retrieving the negative events of the story, while they showed no impairment recalling the neutral parts of the story,” [a researcher] said.

Metyrapone is not currently commercially produced, but perhaps it will be soon. "The research offers hope to people suffering from syndromes such as post-traumatic stress disorder," scientists say. It might appeal to more people than that: Try as some people might to just, you know, never think about bad stuff — and some people do pull that off with surprising success — the task can be relatively difficult. Metyrapone could offer a legal and permanent way to pursue a time-tested method for numbing pain: Take drugs, and you'll literally just forget about it. We're no marketing experts, but we suspect that would sell.

The Drug Metyrapone to Erase Bad Memories? [PsychCentral]