Manipulating Memory

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 5 2013 @ 10:31am

Neuroscientists have demonstrated that mice can be manipulated to “recall” memories of experiences that were only implanted – false memories. Jason Castro considers the implications for humans:

Perhaps it would be possible to rebuild particularly cherished and important memories that have deteriorated with age or disease? Or perhaps, more provocatively, some might even embrace the idea of falsified memory – artificially adding in happiness where there is only remembered pain, or subtracting out enduring despair that’s long outlived its usefulness. These are some ethically tricky situations, to be sure. At the same time, though, it’s hard to not sympathize with someone, say a war veteran or a rape victim, who might want the emotional content of a specific, life-destroying memory modified.

Barbara J. King zooms out:

It’s clear to me that memories, though, don’t live on only in our brains. Just as our story telling and the making of new worlds emerge in a rich social dynamic, so does the process of altering our memories by revisiting them. It is as we talk, laugh, revisit the past, argue and tell jokes with others that our memories alter. And as they alter, might not the ongoing interactions and relationships sometimes alter too?