An Electric Trip Down Memory Lane

A recent paper published in the Journal of Neural Engineering suggests that electrical shocks can and could one day affect the human brain in ways far beyond what we currently understand as possible.  The journal states that through the use of electrical currents we can relive past memories that once were thought impossible to retrieve.  The study has potential to open up research for post trauma patients and open a new industry for memory recollection and reliving.

If the mind is a series of electrical impulses and the connections in the brain from these impulses, it seems to stand to reason that electrical stimulation could serve to create passages in the brain that allow for memory recollection to take place.  And if memories are collected and stored entirely in the brain, it is possible to trigger a flashback to a previous event and/or state of mind.

But could a company one day offer services in the form of flashbacks of good memories?  Could we one day find ourselves in a subjective world where memory is as good as living out an experience again and again?  If scientists continue their research in the direction it has been heading, it seems like a very real possibility.

It would be quite incredible to be able to remember our past experiences in a way that actually allowed us to relive them in every detail.  Such experiences would no doubt cast a new light on the human experience.  Flashbacks are not a simple matter of remembering something like we normally would, but rather are an intense experience by which sufferers relive every single detail of the event, often unable to tell the difference between the world around them and the memories being experienced, or practically impossible to distinguish the two from one another.  Unfortunately one of the symptoms of post traumatic stress is the connection of neurons between the two.  But if this is the case with things that are so bad, why couldn’t it be used for good as well?

As memory is largely a subjective thing that is affected by the environment anyway, there is certainly no shortage of possibility for potential with electronic devices.  Unfortunately we do not currently know exactly how to manipulate these for positive effects just yet.  If we do eventually uncover the truth it may lead not only to a new industry but for new potential for abuse.  It seems likely there would inevitably be those attempting to relive the past to their own detriment.  Reliving past experiences could become like a drug for those who have experienced loss.  It could lead to them partially ignoring the progress that must be made to create a better future for themselves.

And when memory can be stimulated and then fused with electronic chips, will this lead to the steps needed to implant false memories entirely indistinguishable from real ones?  Given that both technologies are being studied independently today, it seems there will be some incredible breakthroughs in the next fifty years for memory.