Creuset of Ideas
» I don’t remember, I don’t recall


I don’t remember, I don’t recall

2006-02-3 @ 2:44 » Français

Éliane’s blog led me this morning to an article in La Presse about an “amnesia pill.” An article about the same study can also be found on the AP wire. Happily this one’s title refers to easing traumatic memories, and not erasing them. There was also a New Scientist article last month about the research done at Harvard, on which there had been discussed in the university Gazette in March 2004. Almost old news.

One thing I found interesting was the grapevine effect. The first mention I read of the drug was on David Byrne’s journal, where he interpreted it as a pill that erases bad memories. This is also what the La Press title suggests.

As Dr Pitman explains, the drug “doesn’t put a hole in their memory. It doesn’t create amnesia.” What it does is weaken the link with the post-traumatic reflex –which reflex happens to be quite useful: if I nearly died from a lion attack, it’s nice to instinctively run away from that animal on subsequent occasions. However, in acute PTSD cases, this reflex becomes debilitating and the sufferer can no longer function. The treatment (together with psychotherapy) would establish a new balance.

The memory remains, and remains painful; but life can go on.

2 comments to “I don’t remember, I don’t recall”

  1. this sounds very interesting. a pill to take away the debilitating effects of a traumatic memory. I find it interesting how memory and emotion seems to imbue itself into our cells, so that when the memory is activated in a sense, there are physical effects that go along with it. It seems to play with the dualist notion that mind and body are separate things. I think most people believe they are, but also that they are not separate but interlocking. It is nonsensical, of course, but it does seem to be a paradox - sort of how people believe that everything has a cause, but that we also have free will. Seemingly incompatible ideas that people believe in simultaneously. Interesting.

    I’m thinking about soldiers primarily, and how so many have a really hard time coming back to reality after traumatic experiences during wartime. This type of drug would be so useful for a situation like that. Both my grandfathers fought in WWII, and one refused ever to speak of it. A drug like this would have helped him I have no doubt.

  2. Actually, war-related PTSD seems to be one of the main target for this drug, as well as victims of violent acts.

    I don’t think that mind and body being “not separate but interlocking” is especially nonsensical, although it might be better to say: “separate yet interlocking”. It could be that one is the product of the other, but that it can become distinct and eventually (if one believes in some sort of life after death) free from it. But that’s another story.

    As for causality, I seem to recall Jung saying that it was a western thing, that tranditionnal oriental thinking was not concerned with cause and effect. Isn’t part of teaching of the Tao to be one with what is happening, instead of trying to find out the whys and whereofs? The thing with free will and what we could call fate, is that people use those as useful thing to claim, or blame, depending if they’re happy or not with what is happening. Personnaly, I don’t believe in destiny as something to accuse.

What do you think?