American doctors at Northwestern University in Chicago have come up with a technique that allows to edit memories during sleep.
Scientists have found a way to weaken the association between smells and memories about an unpleasant and painful electric shock. They used the previously discovered effect of memory consolidation during sleep. Numerous animal studies and observations showed that during sleep memory is reconstructed from a short-term to a long-term one.
A group of 15 volunteers was subjected to the smell, which was previously associated with a mild electric shock, during the deep phase of their sleep. The researchers thought that the familiar smell would start the consolidation of the traumatic experience, but in a safe environment during sleep, those memories will be milder. The following day, verification showed that the scientists’ calculations were right.
We should add that the link between certain stimuli (e.g, smells) and bad memories is an important component of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Apparently, soon scientists will be erasing our bad memories during sleep on a regular basis.