The tabula rasa


We have all wished for it, one time or another. What if we could forget all the bad things that happened? What if we didn`t have to feel all the pain? If we could erase all of it, would we do it? Some of you might have seen the movie eternal sunshine on a spotless mind, where the protagonist wants to erase the memory of his former lover, but discovers that he doesn`t want to, when the process has begun. I am a bit curious. What would you do, if given the choice?

Can our memories be edited, even turned off? Can we turn bad memories into good memories? MIT neuroscience lab rats, Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu, say yes. In fact, they’ve done it.

But what about the ethics of such science? They discuss that, too, in today’s featured TED talk


 To manipulate memory




17 responses »

  1. This is something that really interests me/we, thank you for sharing.

    As a person who has D.I.D and who has also recovered from a traumatic brain injury which caused severe short term memory loss, it’s something I consider often.

    I think the short answer “yes, I wouldn’t want to remember bad experiences” is what you’d have got from me pre-brain injury.
    Now, I have recovered from brain injury, I recognise just how important memory is.

    Living with fragmented, disorganised memories as part and parcel of D.I.D is really hard, but I’m beginning to truly appreciate the ability of my shared brain in storing memories of trauma.

    So, now I’d say “no”….no matter how painful and how ‘challenging’, I owe it to all parts of me to be accepting of them and how they’ve worked together to help me survive.

    Gosh. Sorry for writing too much if I have.


    • Thank you “brokenbutbeingrepaired”. I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering you have been through. That you still would want to remember it all, shows me just how strong a person can be, and give me strenght to not feel hopeless in any circumstances. I was actually working at a place where people with different brain injuries went, and it was amazing how many of them simply did not give up, even if their legs, brains or thoughts did not function as it should. When something is taken away from us, it can be hard to get it back, but maybe the chance to reconstruct creates the house one dreamt of?
      Your words are always welcome, no matter if they are few or many.

  2. What if memories, whether good or bad, or both bad and good, are what compose our personality, are what consitutes our humanity? Were we to remove or erase some or all of those memories, in what way would that change us?

    I do not think it is the memories that make us who we are, but the choices and the outcomes of the events following the memories. Like the above commenter, I agree, despite all the pain that I have been through, I would not erase those memories. All of the memories I have, good and bad, have shaped me into the being I am today and helped me to survive throughout life and will continue to do so, I think.

    Great post!

    • You are absolutely right, Nico. Memories help us choose what to do next, and without them we would be just following random impulses. I am glad that people want to keep their memories, even if they are bad ones. Let us focus on making new, better memories instead of dwelling too much on what happened a long time ago (but not forgetting)

  3. Thank you for replying.

    That’s the thing, *I* have not been through so much. Other parts of me have, and I don’t remember it as ‘my’ memory, but as *theirs*.
    Its not about reconstructing memory for us; more about the memory no longer being ‘held’ by dissociative parts.
    With the brain injury, it feels odd that I remember being unable to remember 30 seconds ago back then.thankfully, made a pretty good recovery from it.

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