Scientists may have cracked the code to an ‘Eternal Sunshine’ future

In the ten years since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind first dropped its “too real it hurts” memory-erasure romance into the world, science and technology have progressed in ways that seem utterly mind-boggling. However, while holistic practices like hypnosis claimed to affect the way people remember and forget things, there has yet to be any formal medical treatment that, like the one in Eternal Sunshine, actually targets specific kinds of memories for erasure . . . until now.

That’s right: Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have developed a treatment that selectively erases memories associated with a drug high in mice. Though there are plenty of medicines and illegal drugs in the world that can wipe out a chunk of recent memory, the compound scientists have created, perplexingly named “Blebbistatin,” targets “a specific protein used in encoding memories” and in turn wipes them out. It’s not quite as fanciful as Eternal Sunshine’s strange contraption, but then again, would you actually want strangers rummaging through your head?

Despite the eerie similarities between the film’s premise and the scientists’ research, Blebbistatin is actually meant not for erasing memories of your painful breakup, but instead to help treat drug addiction. By erasing the memories associated with highs, the hope is that addicts will have an easier time weaning themselves off, and thus ease the withdrawal process. Sure, it indiscriminately targets the time around those memories, but scientists are betting that the fastest way to get people to move past drug highs is to literally help them forget those experiences.

The Scripps study is still in its beginning stages; for now, Blebbistatin is only coded to go after the protein specifically associated with methamphetamine use, but it’s the newest and most concrete innovation in the field of selective memory erasure. (Yes, research has been going on for a while, but earlier efforts have only been able to modify, rather than erase, memories.) So while the future is here, Eternal Sunshine is still firmly in the realm of science fiction, which means you won’t be getting any of these from your exes anytime soon.

Related reading:

It’s the 10 year anniversary of ‘Eternal Sunshine!’ Here’s what I learned from it

What ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ Taught Me About Love

Images courtesy of Focus Features, via here and here.