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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.



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.


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.