In “Five Big Developments in Neuroscience to Watch” (Forbes, 6/17/2011), David DiSalvo writes,
Neuroscience is in many ways a discipline still in its infancy, making it ripe for claims that veer closer to science fiction than science. In this post I’ve taken a cut at describing five real-deal developments in neuroscience that are going to heat up in the years to come, along with implications pro and con.
1. Boosting Thought Control with Real-time Brain Feedback
Research conducted this year shows that people control their thoughts more effectively when they can see how their brain reacts.
3. Erasing Targeted Memories
We’ve heard about memory manipulation for ages, but in the last couple of years it has made the transition from theory to practice. A handful of credible studies have shown that memory can indeed be erased using procedures that involve removal or manipulation of specific proteins in the brain. Down the road, it’s possible that we’ll be able to target specific memories for erasure.
In very recent research, Israeli scientists showed that they can erase memories linked to drug addiction, thereby removing one of the most confounding factors in addiction treatment. That study speaks to the upside of memory erasure, along with the benefits of erasing traumatic memories. But targeted memory erasure begs a slew of ethical questions, not the least of which is whether we’re ready to accept the consequences of neutralizing part of what makes us human.
Caution is well advised here, for other reasons as well. It would be wise to see what percentage of the study subjects becomes addicted to the same substance or another during the following decade. Memories are certainly a confounding factor, but many such factors exist, including a personal tendency to get addicted.
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose