Electroconvulsive Therapy has been used for treating different kinds of mental ailments. As a part of an experiment, scientists have used electric current to remove distressing memories. If successful, ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction can be treated in this way.
The patients during the course of the treatment the subjects were shown graphic and troubling stories. The patients were then reminded about it a week later and then given electroconvulsive therapy. Formerly this treatment was known as electroshock. This completely erased out the memories of the distressing narrative.
According to Marijn Kroes , neuroscientist at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and lead author of the study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Neuroscience said that the effects were pretty strong and dramatic.
The experiment is something like the movie “Eternal sunshine of the Spotless Mind” in which the alienated couple erases memories of each other.
Scientists have been tinkering with this concept for years though in a different way. The first methodology as the exposure treatment in which the patients were repeatedly exposed to their phobia’s in a way which is not threatening. The repeated exposure slowly led to the weakening of the fear psychosis and gradual weakening of the phobia. Scientists have also been using drugs to the same effect. Scientists are looking at a process which will lead to the selective elimination of the unwanted memories or associations linked to smoking, drug-taking or emotional trauma.
It was a common notion that a memory which has been registered in the brain will never be erased or altered. Patients with anxiety disorders were trained to overcome their fears by creating a new memory. However the memory stays in the subconscious and this can become activated any time.
Scientists had about a decade ago made some startling discoveries. A lab rodent was given a reminder of some past fright; the memory of that event appeared to temporarily become unstable. However the memory stabilized for a second time and became a permanent part of the memory which is known as reconsolidation.
However on administration of certain drugs which hampered the reconsolidation process was injected into the rodents they wiped out the animal’s fearful memory in total. Significantly, other memories weren’t erased.
Since injecting the drugs into the human brain is risky, Dr. Kroes and his colleagues found a way around the problem- Electro convulsive therapy which helped to erase the memory of the unpleasant stories.