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Erasing Memories

May 26, 2011

Scientists have extinguished, or at least greatly weakened, a long-term memory in a sea snail.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A memory, deleted…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For the first time, scientists have erased a specific long-term memory – or at least greatly weakened it. The subject of the experiment was a sea snail and neuroscientist David Glanzman of the University of California at Los Angeles led the study. His team trained the snails to recoil from a touch to the mid-section. Then they inhibited a memory-related enzyme in the relevant nerve cells. The recoiling reflex disappeared.

DAVID GLANZMAN (University of California, Los Angeles):

We don’t see any sign that they ever experienced our sensitization training. And we did several things to try to probe for residual memories.

HIRSHON:

Glanzman notes that human memory is far more complex. But he says eventually, a similar technique might help quiet down painful memories in patients with post-traumatic stress. And other work suggests that turning up the same enzyme could make a memory stronger. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.