New Mind-Altering Drug Capable of Literally Modifying Your Memories
June 2nd, 2011
By: Jonathan Benson
Changing bad memories into good ones could be just a pill away, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada say that metyrapone, a drug that blocks the “stress hormone” cortisol, also appears to alter patients’ memories and minimizing their recollection of negative events — but is this actually a good thing?
For their study, Marie-France Marin and her team evaluated the effects of metyrapone on a group of young men shown a slide show that documented the serious injury of a young girl. In it, the girl is building a birdhouse with her grandparents until a serious accident lands her in the emergency room. In the end, the girl is okay, but the details of her injury involve lots of blood and other disturbing imagery.
Three days after viewing the images of this story, the team gave either a single 750 milligram (mg) dose of metyrapone, a double dose, or a placebo pill to the men in the group. None of the men knew which pill they received. The team then asked the men to retell the story of the girl as they recalled it, both right after receiving the pill, and again four days after taking the pills.
The team found that the men who took the double dose of meyrapone remembered far less of the negative imagery than did the men taking the single or placebo dose. Men in the placebo group scored between 40 and 50 percent in their negative imagery memory test, while men who took the double dose of metyrapone scored around 30 percent.
In explaining these results to Reuters Health, Marin and her team expressed their belief that because metyrapone artificially lowers cortisol levels, it interferes with the way the brain stores memories. These alterations appear to remove the emotional aspects from negative memories that give them a basis in reality, thus changing actual reality into a type of artificial fantasy world.