Could electroconvulsive therapy zap worst nightmares?
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), long associated in the popular imagination with controversial treatment of the mentally ill, can be used to erase memories, Dutch researchers have found - raising hopes of a new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
They say that, in the end, memories are all we have left. And yet how many times have you wished you could forget something?
Now new research suggests it may be possible to zap specific memories, with the help of ECT, a controversial psychiatric treatment where electric pulses are passed through the brain. Dr Marijn Kroes, of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University Nijmegen, who led the study, says the treatment appears to disrupt the natural process of storing memories in the brain.
Last-resort treatment: "Memories are stored in connections between cells in your brain," he says. However, these connections take some time to become permanent. "If you disturb [this] process, you lose the connection between cells altogether" - and thus lose the memory.