Friday, March 23, 2007

can it be that it was all so simple then or has time re-written every line?

I was reading in the New York Times magazine section a couple of weeks back that Neuroimaging technology is breaking new and exciting grounds. Daniel Langleben at the Uninversity of Pennsylvania has developed the Guilty Knowledge test. He is using f.M.R.I machines to compare the brain activity of liars and truth tellers. Langeleben found that certain areas of the brain lighted up when people lied. But this is just the beginning. Michael Gazzaniga, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara proposes that within 10 years, neuroscientists will be able to show that there are neurological differences(again in f.M.R.I imaging) when people testify about their own previous acts and when they testify to something they just witnessed or heard. And no, this is not the end, there is more mind-blowing news (pan intended): A little further down the road neuroimaging technology would be able to read neuronal firings and translate them into voice, text or movies. Yes, you got it; science is catching up with science fiction.

The article focused on the legal ramifications of this technology. But, I am a psychologist who through the years treated many survivors of childhood abuse. I empathized with their pain, joined them in their anger and rage and questioned along with them the validity of memories too painful to accept without feeling that your soul has been stained and your trust in humanity shattered for ever. Not to mention worrying about the possibility of attorneys and families suing me for “implanting” memories (as if trauma memories were bean of tomato seeds).

So, the questions that have “haunted” me ever since I read this article were: If we had the chance to “see” our childhood would we take it? If we could watch our lives moment by vivid moment and had uncontroversial proof of the mistakes or atrocities perpetrated on us or by us how many of us will be brave enough or foolish enough to do so? How do we love, forgive and live with ourselves and our families without the merciful help of repression, denial and editing of the past? Could it be that as the song says:
Memories, may be beautiful and yet
what’s too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget

Would the truth set us free or deliver us deeper into the pit of depression and madness?

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