In a move reminiscent of the film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," one drug company is pursuing research for a new psycho-drug with the aim of lessening the impact of long-term bad memories.
Have a car wreck you'd like to forget? Or, a bad date that you just can't get out of your mind? Well, if that's the case, we've got just the dandy new drug to sell you . . .
A US and Canadian team used a drug called propranolol to target unwanted memories, while leaving others intact. They injected the drug, which is more often used to treat heart patients, while a volunteer was asked to recall a painful memory. (Propranolol is commonly marketed by Wyeth under the trade name Inderal.)
The Journal of Psychiatric Research study found that this seemed to disrupt the way the memory was then stored.
The researchers, from McGill University, in Montreal, and Harvard University in Boston, hope their work could lead to new treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders, such as post-traumatic stress. However, others have warned the research is still at a very early stage - and expressed concern that it could potentially be abused easily.
The researchers believe that memories are initially stored in the brain in a malleable, fluid state before becoming hard-wired into the circuitry. They believe propranolol disrupts the biochemical pathways that allow a memory to "harden" after it has been recalled.
The BBC (link in headline of this post) quotes one expert as saying "One does not know what effect such a drug could have in the long term . . . After all, fear reactions are there to protect people from danger in the future."
This sounds to me like one of the worst ideas I've ever seen for selling quantities of pharmaceutical chemicals.