No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss’d
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
- from “Ode on Melancholy” by John Keats (1884)
Memory has been a topic of discussion for thousands of years among poets, philosophers, and psychiatrists. Why do we remember things both good and bad? How can we get over the effects of a bad memory? Are there memories we have in our unconscious that affect our conscious minds, and is it a good idea to try to retrieve them – or is it better to try to forget? In Greek mythology, the river Lethe flowed with the “water of forgetfulness” and taking a drink from the river would erase a person’s memory of their past.
Science is helping us find out more about memories and how they work, and a new research study has discovered an enzyme that might help people with memory-related emotional pain (such as that caused by PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder). Amazingly enough, this enzyme may also play a crucial role in helping people recover lost memories, reversing some of the effects of age-related memory loss. In a study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York discovered a unique molecule that seems to block or enhance the information flow between neurons leading to the area of the brain where long-term memories are believed to be stored. This enzyme (called “PKMzeta”) may in the future play an important role in actively treating memory-related disorders.
If you’re interested in more research studies involving PKMzeta, check out these articles.