[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]
Last week researchers from the University of Toronto published a paper in Science that shows successful obliteration of a fearful memory in mice. This study is significant in that they focused on a specific set of nerve cells that were associated with a very specific memory.
Researchers trained mice to fear a tone, by matching that tone with an electric shock to their feet. So when the tone rang, the mice froze in fear.
Then they flipped a genetically engineered-switch that wiped out a set of neurons, called the CREB-making neurons. CREB is a protein that spikes in the lateral amygdala, when we experience a scary event.
Now, when the tone rang, the mice kept on with their mouselike activities. No other memories, nor their ability to form new memories, were affected. The effect was specific, potent and long-lasting.
We need to note we are not anywhere close to erasing memory in humans. And really, we need to think hard about which memories to squash, if we ever could. After all, memory is how we learn.
Like that time last winter when I thought it was a fun idea to test walking on thin ice. Think I want to remember that one.