Scientists unlock the key to getting rid of unwanted thoughts
What if you could remove the memories that cause you pain, discomfort and sadness? Wipe them out at the touch of a button without having to suppress them in a damaging way a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?
Well, researchers at Cambridge University believe they’ve found a way by simply removing bad throughs from a person’s mind altogether.
Instead of having to wear a helmet hooked up to wires and use an inordinate amount of power to “forget” something or someone, the researchers instead have tapped into your own biology to create a pill that could wipe your ills and make you happy. This is because it’s believed that the bad thoughts associated with causing disorders such as depression, PTSD, schizophrenia and anxiety all stem from hyperactivity within the brain’s hippocampus – the part of your brain responsible for storing memories.
If this blocker can be utilised, the researchers believe it could be a viable alternative to antidepressants or other drugs designed to help calm and suppress brain activity to improve mental wellbeing. While there’s a lot of further research needed before this could be taken into a clinical development and trial phase, it could be a way to help those with neurological disorders without actually having a negative impact on brain activity in the long-term.
The research team at Cambridge University discovered the neurological blocker by scanning the brain’s hippocampus. As the paper published in Nature Communications explains, a neurotransmitter called GABA actively suppresses the memories you want to, or actively try to, forget.
In particular, the discovery was made by analysing the brain scans of 24 subjects via MRI scanners and spectroscopy. The researchers found that, when prompted with a reminder of a situation that the subject was forced to forget and didn’t want to recall, GABA fired from nerve cells to inhibit brain activity in the hippocampus, suppressing the memory as best it could. Essentially, it’s a tool your brain uses to help you forget.
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If this research can progress to a clinical development stage, we could see some sort of super drug for neurological disorders, but the discovery should be taken with a pinch of salt. Of course, there’s a lot of hurdles to jump before the researchers can get to such a point, and a test would need to be carried out on more than 24 people to help see if it really is the case.
More and more people are being diagnosed with neurological disorders, anxiety being chief among them. As with any rise in a specific health issue, there’s a multitude of reasons for its increase, but it’s looking likely that technology is chief among them. There’s a myriad research going into the field trying to help people overcome their afflictions and live a happy life. This pill may sound like something out of We Happy Few – a dystopian game where people take drugs to be happy under totalitarian rule – but it could seriously help if it ever comes to pass.
Alternative treatments currently being researched are focusing on the impact of VR on mental health and the use of magic mushrooms to cure depression. There’s even an AI being developed to help flag when someone is feeling depressed by simply analysing their social media posts. In fact, technology is trying to help solve the problem of depression and other mental disorders to help create a better life for many.
As with any form of mental disorder, if you need help dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, there are plenty of resources available to you.