Journalism, Neuroscience

Memory editing: from the Matrix to Medicine

Towards altering our concept of fear and addiction

Writer: Alexandra Gilbert
Editor: Rachel Rubinsohn
Artist: Will Ning

The red pill that bestows the terrifying truths of reality or the blue pill that provides stability and safety; which would you pick?

During the Matrix movies, the main character, Neo, must choose between two worlds, each pill altering his memory either in favour of a virtual reality, or a devastatingly authentic one. Here, the writers of the movies raised a tantalising question: what if we could erase, or edit, our memories?

Other than blocking out cringey high school moments, there are plenty of clinical reasons why we might want to edit our memories. Forgetting the craving cues characteristic of drug addictions and painful pasts in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are a top priority in the field, along with dabbles in memory enhancement for educational purposes.

Despite the attractive (or unattractive) sentiment, the…

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