Mind & Brain See Inside Erasing Painful Memories: Drug and Behavioral Therapies Will Help Us Forget Toxic Thoughts The caustic imprint of a traumatic memory may fade or vanish with new drug and behavioral therapies By Jerry Adler Fredrik Broden The rat is on a carousel with clear plastic sides, rotating slowly in a small room. As it looks out through the plastic, it sees markings on the walls of the room from which it can determine its position. At a certain location it receives a foot shock—or, in experimenters’ jargon, a negative reinforcement.* When that happens, the rat turns sharply around and walks tirelessly in the opposite direction, so it never reaches that same place in the room again. It will do this to the point of exhaustion. Question: How do you get the rat to stop walking? Note that just turning off the shock will not suffice, because the rat will not allow itself to enter the danger zone. The rat needs an intervention that helps it forget its fear or that overrides its response with a competing signal of safety. This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now! Select an option below: Buy Digital Issue Customer Sign In *You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com. Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access. ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2013 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.