There’s a neat article in today’s Science
that could creep you out. Shema, Sacktor, and Dudai demonstrate that an inhibitor of protein kinase M zeta, called ZIP, apparently erases the long-term memories of rats. Rats presented with a novel taste that makes them sick subsequently avoid water with that taste (this is called Conditioned Taste Aversion). If the rats are treated with ZIP after the initial conditioning, they lose this aversion, even if treated with ZIP up to 25 days after the initial conditioning. ZIP treatment prior to conditioning has no effect. The implication is that ZIP has erased the memory that gives rise to aversion. Moreover, this effect depends on where
in the brain the ZIP is infused (hippocampal infusion has no effect), suggesting that there is some possibility of controlling which memories are removed.
For people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or similar problems this could be the beginning of a promising therapeutic avenue. Of course, for those of a more imaginative bent this holds the promise of being a frightening brainwashing tool.
Check out the research article and commentary in the August 17 issue of Science.