jamie goode's wine blog: Erasing memories, selectively

Monday, March 12, 2007

Erasing memories, selectively

A news story in leading scientific journal Nature caught my eye today. Those clever people in white coats have managed to erase a specific memory in lab rats in a selective fashion. Of course, it's a long way from rat brains to the jelly-like substance sloshing around in our skulls, but it's an interesting finding nonetheless.

It reminds me of the wonderful recent film Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, where Lacuna Inc. offered to remove all the memories relating to a particular person you wanted out of your life - a rather more challenging task.

One of the frustrating things about our memories of specific wines, is that they don't seem to be coded in a particularly accessible address in the brain. It would be wonderful if we could relive 1970 Latour in much the same way that we can hum our favourite tune, or recreate in our mind's eye that view from the top of a mountain we enjoyed on our last skiing trip.

It seems, though, that our memories for smell are only reawakened when we revisit a similar smell in the present, and then they tend to be tied to emotions - one sniff, and the memories all come flooding back. It's quite a powerful experience, but at least for me a relatively rare one.

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At 12:32 AM, Blogger ~ Phyll said...

Hmm, like in "Paycheck", too...the movie with Matt Damon's pal in it. I've enjoyed your blog for many months now. And Wineanorak for much longer. Thank you.

At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Ole Martin said...

That's right: the Proustian moment cannot be brought up at will - it is an involuntary memory. It may, as you know, have to do with how neural connections work. But perhaps developing a language of smells can provide a way of bringing them up again? Or is it just an easier access to the memory of the language used about a wine, rather than the experience itself?

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Phyll, thanks for the nice comments. Like your blog, too - particularly intrigued by tea - I've never drunk it in the UK, but began to enjoy it on a recent trip to Beijing. It's a serious beverage I need to learn about.

Ole Martin, you are right - and I suspect our access is just to the linguistic encoding of the sensations. The experience itself is deeper and less accessible. I wonder if this is the same for my dog?

At 5:30 PM, Blogger ~ Phyll said...

Yea...tea...wine...they can be quite serious. Thanks for the compliment re: my blog, too.


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