The science behind Harry Potter’s magic: Erasing memories

Published on November 4th, 2011
The science behind Harry Potter’s magic: Erasing memories

A Ministry of Magic favourite, ‘Obliviate!’ is a memory charm that helps keep the wizarding world secret from muggles (non-magic folk) if they stumble across something magical.

But is erasing memories a scientific fact? Well, yes, according to real-life muggle Andre Fenton and his colleagues at the State University of New York.

These smart guys discovered an important part of the complex system that allows memories to be stored in the brain. By stopping a single molecule from functioning, they proved that you could wipe out long-term memories. The memory-busting molecule, called ‘protein kinase M zeta’, maintains long-term memories by strengthening certain points in the web of connections between brain cells.

By using drugs that boost the activity of this protein, memory can be improved (exams – here we come!). This also goes for the opposite. By preventing the protein from working in rats, the team was able to erase a memory — such as a rat learning how to perform a trick.

Being a muggle is definitely getting better, thanks to our own brand of magic – called Science!