Feb 16, 2009 | 4
In the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a character played by Jim Carrey visits an eccentric scientist who wipes out the bad memories of his relationship with Kate Winslet's character using a machine that maps their location in his brain and systematically deletes them. The concept might have seemed preposterous, but today scientists are reporting that a common blood pressure drug can produce a similar effect – not by destroying a memory itself, but by wiping out your fearful reaction to it.
Dutch scientists taught a group of 60 people to fear a spider by mildly shocking their wrists when they showed them a picture of the arachnid. Then, the next time the group were shown the spider, half were given propranolol (a beta-blocker prescribed to lower blood pressure and treat migraines in children), and half a placebo. Those who got the drug didn’t show any strong startle response to the spider, while those who got the placebo continued to have a significant one, according to the research in today’s Nature Neuroscience.
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