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See Inside January/February 2012

Scientists Manipulate and Erase Memories

Drugs and other therapies may soon be able to alter or even delete recollections selectively



Photoillustration by Aaron Goodman

Joël Coutu knelt on the cold cement floor of the pet supply store he managed in Montreal, his wrists bound behind him with telephone wire. He could feel the barrel of a pistol pressed against the back of his neck. “You’re lying!” the gunman screamed. “And I am going to blow your head off.”

He and another attacker had herded Coutu and a young cashier into the back room and demanded that he unlock the safe. When he told them he did not have the key, they became enraged. They ripped out all the wires of the fax and telephones in his office and tossed the contents of his desk drawers. Now they were getting ready to execute him. “Go ahead and pop him,” he heard one of them tell the other. “Blow his head off.’”

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