Drug May Help Overwrite Bad Memories

Recalling painful memories while under the influence of the drug metyrapone reduces the brain’s ability to re-record the negative emotions associated with them, according to University of Montreal researchers at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress of Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital. The team’s study challenges the theory that memories cannot be modified once they are stored in the brain.

“Metyrapone is a drug that significantly decreases the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that is involved in memory recall,” explained lead author Marie-France Marin. Manipulating cortisol close to the time of forming new memories can decrease the negative emotions that may be associated with them. “The results show that when we decrease stress hormone levels at the time of recall of a negative event, we can impair the memory for this negative event with a long-lasting effect,” said Dr. Sonia Lupien, who directed the research.

Thirty-three men participated in the study, which involved learning a story composed of neutral and negative events. Three days later, they were divided into three groups – participants in the first group received a single dose of metyrapone, the second received double, while the third were given placebo. They were then asked to remember the story. Their memory performance was then evaluated again four days later, once the drug had cleared out.. “We found that the men in the group who received two doses of metyrapone were impaired when retrieving the negative events of the story, while they showed no impairment recalling the neutral parts of the story,” Marin explained. “We were surprised that the decreased memory of negative information was still present once cortisol levels had returned to normal.”

The research offers hope to people suffering from syndromes such as post-traumatic stress disorder. “Our findings may help people deal with traumatic events by offering them the opportunity to ‘write-over’ the emotional part of their memories during therapy,” Marin said. One major hurdle, however, is the fact that metyrapone is no longer commercially produced. Nevertheless, the findings are very promising in terms of future clinical treatments. “Other drugs also decrease cortisol levels, and further studies with these compounds will enable us to gain a better understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in the modulation of negative memories.”


Remembering, Forgetting & the New In-Between

I considered starting this post by asking you to recall your worst memory. Then I decided that I would probably lose a lot of readers because really, who wants to think about the less than stellar moments of their life? I sure don’t.

When I read that the University of Montreal had conducted a study which showed that the drug, metyrapone could reduce levels of cortisol (a stress hormone associated with memory recall) I immediately thought about one of my favourite movies – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you remember (pun intended), the story depicts Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski as they fall in love, fall out of love, attempt to erase the other from their respective memories, and eventually (SPOILER alter) find each other again. The story is beautiful and believable, despite the fact that at the time, there was no study to prove that we could forget painful memories.

Now that there is proof we can reduce things like post traumatic stress disorder, we can begin to look at how important negative moments and emotions are to our everyday life. It seems a little freaky science to play with nature like this, but as Marie France Marin, lead author of the study explains in the National Post, “If every time you retrieve [a bad memory] and it’s not helping you because you cannot calm down a bit and put things back into perspective, it might be a good idea to retrieve it under the influence of metyrapone so you will recall less of the emotional or very traumatic part”. That seems like a reasonable argument, as they are not actually erasing memories (insert Men in Black reference) but “reducing, modifying [and] decreasing”.

Personally, this isn’t something that I would do. I know I said I don’t like to drudge up the past, but I recognize the importance experiencing pain, learning to live with it, and subsequently moving on. That being said, I wouldn’t judge someone who went through a traumatic event (war, violence, etc) and used metyrapone to modify the memory.

I wonder, does the saying “Whatever doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger” apply here?

Memory Modification Is Possible: This Drug Seems To Erase Painful Memories.

Have an awful memory that you wish you could just take a pill and forget about it all? I do, even with all that mumbo jumbo and sage advice about going through times like that makes you tougher. Well, I don’t care to be tough, so pill please! And, it looks like one day in the near future, I may just get my wish. New research challenges the current notion that memories can’t be modified once they’re stored in the brain. 


Researchers at the University of Montreal found that when recalling painful memories under the drug metyrapone, the brain’s ability to re-record the negative emotions associated with them is reduced significantly. Metyrapone is a medicine that lowers the level of the stress-inducing hormone cortisol which is involved in memory recall. "The results show that when we decrease stress hormone levels at the time of recall of a negative event, we can impair the memory for this negative event with a long-lasting effect,“ said Dr. Sonia Lupien, who directed the research. The researchers were surprised to find that once cortisol levels returned to normal, the study participants were still unable to remember the negative information. 

Hopefully this new research will be able to help those with post-traumatic stress disorder and maybe normal people like you and me who can’t seem to leave painful memories in the past. There’s one hiccup though… metyrapone is no longer commercially produced. It’s possible that other drugs used to lower cortisol levels might work. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

Have a painful memory you’d like to erase forever? Would you pop a pill to get rid of that memory?

I saw this picture on Wednesday when I was in Viña del Mar, Chile. It took me a while to find the proper translation, or the translation in English I felt best fitted with the message in Spanish.

So here it is, “Do not be conquered by evil, instead persevere with the good of evil.”

I just read today an article about a study that was done in which they found that the drug metyrapone, may actually help reduce the brains ability to recall bad memories.

This article made me think about the rock and it’s message and it made me think back to all the “bad” situations that I have gone through. About a year ago I would be ready and willing to take this drug to try and forget a bad break-up or the arguing with my parents or any other bad situation. Actually go back a few more and I would consider taking this drug, but ask me now if I want to pull a Joe and Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind and well my answer is no.

After everything that I have gone through and stumbling upon this quote I have come to the conclusion that all evil has some good in it, because evil is just negative good.

I believe that humans are like plants and a part of nature, we start off as little seeds and continue to grow and flourish all throughout our live.  In order to grow we need sunshine and rain.

Sunshine would represent the good things, like family, friends, love, things that make us smile. The obstacles we overcome and things that make us sad are in a way like the evil. But you see we need both we need the people who love us and that good events like we need the haters and the obstacles we overcome. Our tears are like rain and these obstacles help us grow and become stronger. It’s like the quote whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

So evil, has some good to it. It has the ability to help us grow. In my class a while back the professor said “Only those eyes that have shed tears can see.”This is something that has stayed with me because I believe it. It ties in perfectly with what Mr. Bott told me once which was “I’ve often told you that your strength is your ability to grow from the terrible stuff you have endured. It makes you stronger, more empathetic, more in tune with the struggles of humanity in general.” I think Mr. Bott quote can apply to anyone, our suffering makes us more empathetic and in tune with the struggles of others.

So it is weird to say but I welcome the sunshine and the rain. I welcome happiness and tears because I know at the end of the day, at the end of my life, the good and the bad are what helped me become Ana Laura. After all we acquire the strength we have overcome.