“For decades people had thought that once a memory is wired in the brain it stays there forever,” says Karim Nader, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal. But Lewis’s study showed that wasn’t true: When a rat recalled a stored memory, the memory somehow became unstable again, making it vulnerable to erasure.
Nader showed that, in rats, old memories can be erased by infusing a drug into the animal’s brain as it recalls the memory. Because the drug blocked protein synthesis, this experiment was evidence that memories go through a “reconsolidation” process after being recalled, and that this process requires protein synthesis.
There are some definite therapeutic uses for this kind of technology – things like treating post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other psychological problems.
Naturally, one can also easily imagine some fantastic dystopian usages – criminal punishment, witness protection programs, espionage and dozens of others.
Somehow I think the intelligence community is going to be following developments in this very closely…