MIAMI (CBSMiami) — It sounds like science fiction. The idea that bad memories could be erased with a flash of light.
Well, the future is here - at least for mice.
Researchers at the University of California Davis Center For Neuroscience are learning how to use lasers to erase specific memories in mice. Something that could possibly benefit humans one day.
Dr. Brian Wiltgen said people store countless experiences every day, both good and bad. Deep in the brain is a small structure called the hippocampus that works as our memory bank.
"We were able to turn off a certain memory in the hippocampus in mice," he said.
By inserting probes into the brains of mice, they have successfully used pulses of light to erase bad experiences, as if they never happened.
It's not as easy as in "Men In Black," where memories are zapped away instantly by a 'neurolyzer', but Wiltgen says some people wish that Hollywood science was real.
"(We've received) A number of emails from people who have suffered from PTSD," he said.
Dozens of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who heard about the UC Davis study are hoping the experiments could help erase the horrible images of war.
"This at the moment is not possible with humans," he said.
They're decades away from perfecting memory erasure in humans, but in the meantime, scientists at UC Davis are hopeful the experiments could help reverse the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.
"One of the things that we would like to do is to not only flash the light, and help animals to forget but also stimulate the cells and get the animals to remember," he said.
Clearly this science is not ready for prime time for humans just yet. But if it turns out to be successful, it could not only help people with PTSD, but phobias, anxiety and depression as well.
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