Why memory implantation might be useful/beneficial?  

Opinions on Debatable Issues #42

Memory implantation used to only exist in science fiction or our wild imagination. However, scientists have found that it is not only possible but has been happening since the birth of the human race as a natural feature or side product of memory construction. Now, with a better understanding of human minds and memory, intentional memory plantation comes under hot debate.

Scientists Can Implant Fake Memories in the Brain, Here's How - YouTube

Implanting aversive experiences can help end addiction from alcohol, drug, and solve obesity. This works by utilizing conditioned taste aversion, which is artificially creating “a tendency to avoid or make negative associations with a food that you ate just before getting sick”, according to Healthline. Many studies that were conducted since the 1940s have proved the effectiveness of this association. When one implants the memory of getting sick after eating fast food, the person develops an aversion to all kinds of fast food, automatically avoiding them. The same applies to alcohol. When one person is implanted with the memory of serious nausea or even coma after heavy drinking, their body develops resistance and reacts uncomfortably when the thought of drinking comes up again. Similarly, if one was implanted with the memory that the drug caused an emergency hospitalization, one tangibly understands the urgency of stopping taking drugs, providing intrinsic motivation for quitting. 

The Role of Classical Conditioning in Taste Aversions
Verywell mind

Similar attempts of changing memory to heal trauma are already available. According to psychology professor of UC Irvine, Elizabeth Loftus, there are clinical studies of a drug called propranolol that’s being used to dampen or weaken the memories of a traumatic event. It’s thought that these weakened memories will be less likely to result in post-traumatic stress disorder.” If people think it is ethical to manipulate or extinguish some memory using drugs, implantation does not seem too far-fetched or outrageous.

Moreover, the Pentagon, specifically the Department of Defense is investing lots of money in developing chips that can help until memory for people with Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injury, which affects up to 5 million Americans, according to Vox. I think most people would want to remember their loved ones by implanting memories that are lost to live a more happy and fulfilling last couple of years or decades of their life. 

Alzheimer's research reset | Science | AAAS

Memory implantation can also heal psychological problems. People who suffer from PTSD, such as veterans, need to change their memory of the traumatic experiences to recover. Implanting happy memory that relieves the stress and suffering from their memory of the past can effectively reduce PTSD symptoms.

It is true that when used with ill intention, memory construction can incur injustices and cause harm. However, this is happening with/without memory implantation being allowed. Elizabeth Loftus leading scientist in the field of misinformation, said “Misinformation is everywhere.” Suggestive messages are sent and received subconsciously all the time. When it is allowed, specific rules and guidelines can be established to regulate the usage of this psychological tool. It is just like hypnosis, which is s a human condition involving focused attention reduced peripheral awareness, and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestions, according to the American Psychological Associations. It works mostly always when the person trusts the professional hypnotizer and consent to the procedure and of course with consent. Since medical usage of memory implantation will only be administered with the consent of the patients, they will be used appropriately. Also, in the case of witness testimony, with the awareness that memory implantation can happen, the court will establish new laws that completely prevent intentional use of memory implantation and unintentional ones to reduce false accusations. That is beneficial. 

National Science Foundation

Banning implant memories does not mean suggestive messages and memory alternation does not happen. Loftus and other psychologists concur that “There is scientific evidence that we distort our own memories in a positive or prestige-enhancing direction without anybody else intervening. So people remember that their grades were better than they were. They remember that they gave more to charity than they did. They remember that they voted in elections that they didn’t vote in. They remember that their kids walked and talked at an earlier age than they really did – all of these prestige-enhancing memories.” If that is the case, then humans are already implanting memories as a mechanism to live happier. So what would be so different if they consent to have intentional memory implantation to achieve greater benefits. You can think of memory implantation as white lies, where you make someone believe something that is not true to make that person feel better or live a better life. 

Surveys have found that many see memory implantation as desirable. BBC future interviewed some Americans, many expressed that “the potential drawbacks of ‘false memory therapy’ seemed no worse than certain existing health interventions. One American man wrote: ‘I do not see it as a problem… After all, many medical treatments involve taking drugs or having surgical operations. These involve putting real things into the body. Sometimes they do not turn out beneficial and may even result in more harm than good. So, just putting false thoughts into someone’s thoughts (sic) does not seem nearly as invasive or potentially harmful.’”

How PTSD Is Treated: Is There a Cure?
Verywell Mind

Some believe memory implantation messes up one’s memories or cognition, However, this is based on the false idea that memory implantation only happens through surgeries that physically change the structure of the brain. In truth is that studies that ask leading questions and use specific framing and priming techniques have successfully implanted memories. In one instance, interviewers replaced the word “hit” with “smash” to implant the memory of glass shattering in the subjects’ memory. Therefore, memory implantation is not as detrimental as some fear. Some might also be concerned that memory implantation that went wrong cannot be corrected. However, psychologist Aileen Oeberst at the University of Hagen in Germany and his colleagues have successfully implanted and reversed false memories. 

Loftus also points out that “We get misinformation not only if we’re questioned in a leading way.” This means to creating a significant impact and changing one’s behavior substantially requires scientific methods and planning. You have to make someone truly believe something happened to make implantation work and have a huge impact, so the risk of dangerous usage of memory implantation is relatively low. 

In conclusion, memory implantation might still need much more research to become a mature tool for healing medical and psychological illnesses, but its potential is virtually limitless.

Meet the Two Scientists Who Implanted a False Memory Into a Mouse |  Innovation | Smithsonian Magazine
Smithsonian Magazine


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