Imagine entering the brain, searching for an area that stores the remembrance of a break-up, and inactivating or replacing it. Even that fear of thunderstorms? Gone. Sounds like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, doesn’t it?

Or if you'd rather remember something you haven't experienced, imagine waking up in the morning with clear memories of having skied in the Alps. Oh wait, that's Total Recall (or, if you prefer your books to your movies, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.)

Yep, those bits of science fiction could soon become science facts. Memory Hackers, a PBS Nova documentary (trailer above) reveals that the idea of modifying memory is now a reality. Michael Bicks, the writer, director, and producer, focused on researchers and subjects behind some of the most provocative discoveries in the field.

Some of these experiments involved a 12-year-old boy with a total recall ability known as "highly superior autobiographical memory". Another set was with a professor who succeeded in erasing spider phobias in subjects.

And, most unnerving is a false memories study in which a criminal psychology expert convinced subjects to remember doing things they hadn’t actually done in incidents that had never occurred. And by the end of the experiment, 70 per cent of the participants believed they had committed a crime.


In an interview, Bicks also stated that our memories are not meant to be 100 percent accurate. They are not a recording device, but a way of taking our experiences, putting them together, and then being able to creatively predict what's going to happen in the future. False memories are a byproduct of an amazing system that allows us to walk through the world and do all of these complex things.

Advent of brain mapping tools PET scans, TMS, MRIs and psychopharmacology are facilitating new ways to chart memory. And it is being actually redefined by several advances in technology, neurochemistry, and cognitive science. Which also enable us to erase old memories and implant new ones.

We're about to cross a new frontier in managing our minds.