Scientists may have discovered a biological mechanism that causes distortion of memories, especially when fear is involved. The August 17, 2000 issue of science journal Nature contains a description of a study suggesting that, every time a memory is drawn into consciousness, the brain actually updates it and then makes new proteins (used for memory storage by the brain) when returning it to held memories. Changes can take place during this process. It has been known for 100 years that newly formed memories are initially unstable, and that the formation process can be distorted by trauma, both physical and emotional. It has also been possible to block fear memory in rats by injecting them with a drug that blocks protein synthesis just after the memory is acquired.

However, it now appears that memories are open to revision every time they are recalled. This means that memory engineering is not far away. It maybe possible, for example, to erase traumatic memories altogether, and to implant false memories.

It also means that somebody already in possession of this knowledge could already be engineering human memory at will.

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