Is there a memory or two you wouldn’t mind permanently erasing from your mind? If you’re a human being, chances are, you’ve had some unpleasant experiences somewhere along the way. Wouldn’t it be nice to rid your head of the most upsetting memories? Or perhaps create entirely new memories of events that never actually occurred? While it may sound like the makings of a great sci-fi movie plot, the latest documentary from PBS reveals that scientists have discovered how to make this a reality.
With the documentary “Memory Hackers” from the PBS NOVA series, we gain insights into the nature of our memories and how they may be manipulated for the benefit of mankind as a whole. Makers of the film explain, “For much of human history, memory has been seen as a tape recorder that faithfully registers information and replays it intact.”
“But now, researchers are discovering that memory is far more malleable, always being written and rewritten, not just by us but by others. We are discovering the precise mechanisms that can explain and even control our memories.”
One of the primary participants of the documentary is a 12 year old boy named Jake Hausler. The St. Louis native deals with a condition in which he remembers every single thing he has ever experienced since the tender age of 8. He is the youngest person on record to be diagnosed with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. This diagnosis makes it difficult for those suffering with it to distinguish between trivial and important events from their past.
As a prominent neuroscientist currently dedicated to deciphering the proper techniques for erasing painful memories, Andre Fenton states: “Forgetting is probably one of the most important things that brains will do. We understand only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to human memory.”
Another interviewee includes Julia Shaw, a psychology professor at London South Bank University. Professor Shaw has designed a system for implanting false memories. In fact, she has proven the technique’s validity by already convincing subjects that they had committed crimes which never actually took place. Such research has the potential for serious adverse ramifications with the criminal justice system.
The film also takes the time to speak with clinical psychologist Merel Kindt. Kindt has discovered that medication can be utilized to remove negative associations of certain memories, subsequently allowing her to ‘cure’ numerous patients of arachnophobia. ‘Memory Hackers’ made its debut in the states on Wednesday night and is set to broadcast on PBS America for UK viewers in the near future.
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