Professor Robyn Waller
Memory Erasing Using HDAC2 Inhibitor Treatment
Everyone has a certain memory they wish they could completely erase from their minds. For some people, it is the embarrassing time when lines were forgotten in the school play, or an awkward moment with a girlfriend’s parents. However, for some people, they need to erase much more traumatic memories. Whether it is posttraumatic memories in a soldier returning home from war, or a woman’s terrifying memory of her assault and rape at the hands of a violent man, many people live with horrible memories that they would benefit greatly from erasing. For much of history, this has only been a fantasy. However, recent developments have made this a possibility. While this technology could, and should, be used to help people suffering from posttraumatic stress heal, it should be closely controlled. A study conducted recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has shown that memories, even longterm ones, can be erased through the use of HDAC2 inhibition treatment (Trafton 1). HDAC2,
Histone Deacetylase 2, is a protein that plays a role in converting shortterm memories in the hippocampus to longterm memories stored in the cortex (OMIM 1). Once the memory moves from the hippocampus to the cortex, it is firmly ingrained in the brain and is very hard to address using traditional psychotherapy techniques. However, by inhibiting this protein through psychoactive drug treatment, memories can be transferred from the cortex
back into short term memory in the hippocampus (Trafton 1). Once the memory is in the hippocampus, it can be treated using traditional psychotherapeutic techniques to remove the negative association of the memory. HDAC2 inhibitor drugs are currently FDA approved for use in certain cancer treatment techniques, making their approval for clinical trials, and hopefully eventual market release much easier (Trafton 1). If everything goes well, these drugs could have the ability to remove traumatic, painful memories permanently from the mind. This ability would be very helpful in the treatment of sufferers of posttraumatic stress disorder. Soldiers returning from war often have terrible traumatic memories from their time in the service, and these memories can be triggered by activities, sounds, and events in normal, everyday life. Living with posttraumatic stress can be very difficult, as the debilitating memories can be triggered at any time. Similarly, victims and witnesses of horrific crimes such as rapes, assaults, and murders can suffer the same posttraumatic memories. According to the Mayo Clinic, sufferers of posttraumatic stress disorder experience flashbacks, nightmares, severe emotional distress, depression, mood swings, and angry outbursts (PTSD 1). These symptoms lead to a severe decrease in quality of life for sufferers, and often ruins the lives of those affected by it.
Because posttraumatic stress disorder can be so destructive to the lives of those it affects, it would be the perfect target for HDAC2 inhibition treatment. While some may argue that it would be unethical to artificially alter memory, in the context of those suffering from this disease, any moral ambiguities about removing the memories is far outweighed by the drastic improvement in the quality of life that it would bring about for those affected. Removing these
memories, which cause legitimate medical suffering, is not only permissible, it should be required in cases of severe posttraumatic stress disorder. However, while the argument for use of this treatment for those severely affected by posttraumatic stress is easily made, it should not be a treatment that is easily available to the public. While everyone has certain memories they would like to erase, almost all of these bad ...
Cited: Technology, 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2014.
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