Can You Erase Your Unwanted Memories?

Fear, anxiety, and the haunting specters of the past—these mental ghosts can often cause crippling effects, driving many to seek ways to escape or erase them. But can memories, especially the unwanted ones, truly be eradicated?

A remarkable study published in July 2017 sheds new light on the selective erasure of long-term synaptic plasticity and presents promising insights into the fascinating world of memory manipulation.

How Memories Are Stored

The brain stores memories through a process known as synaptic plasticity. Think of it like clay that can be shaped and reshaped. It allows for memories to be formed, stored, and changed over time.

However, the study revealed that different kinds of memories are stored in unique ways in the same brain cell, and it might be possible to erase them selectively.

To use a different metaphor, imagine your brain like a library. It stores many different books (memories), and they all sit on the same shelf (neuron). Some of these books are happy, some are sad, and some are scary. This study found that we can choose which book to take off the shelf. We might be able to take the bad books (unwanted memories) off the shelf without disturbing the good ones.

Erasing Memories with Special Proteins

The study found that it’s possible to target and erase these different types of memories by affecting certain proteins in the brain cell. It’s like finding a specific key to unlock only one door in a house full of doors.

For example, a special kind of protein called a ‘dominant-negative atypical PKM’ could erase associative memories, while another kind could erase non-associative ones.

Another key finding was the discovery of a protective protein called KIBRA. It helps to maintain one type of memory by shielding a specific protein from being broken down. If this protector is interfered with, it can lead to the erasure of that particular memory.

Toward a New Treatment for Mental Health

What makes this study groundbreaking is its potential application in mental health treatment. It may provide a way to help people suffering from haunting memories by selectively erasing them. While this is still an area of ongoing research, the findings mark a significant step forward.

Beyond this specific intervention, there are other approaches and therapies that revolve around the idea of altering or easing the impact of traumatic memories.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a psychotherapy technique used to lessen the distress associated with traumatic memories. It doesn’t erase the memory but helps the person process it in a way that reduces its negative impact.

Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches

Techniques like Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help individuals reframe and manage distressing memories, essentially changing how they react to those memories without erasing them.


Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses real-time displays of brain activity to teach self-regulation. It helps individuals learn to change their brain waves and can be used to manage the impact of traumatic memories, potentially altering the way those memories are experienced.

Selectively Erasing Memories

The ability to selectively erase memories is an exciting concept that’s moving from fiction to fact. The journey into understanding how memories can be manipulated holds promise for new ways to treat mental conditions and may redefine how we understand our minds.

This study opens doors once thought locked and sheds light on the complex world of memory, offering hope and possibilities for the future.