Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology replaced negative memories of electric shocks in mice with the pleasurable one of mingling with mice of the opposite sex.
The Boston Globe
After working as an experimental subject for six months–half my lifespan–I was ready to relax a bit. No more running round in mazes, responding to stimuli all day for me; these were supposed to be my golden months fer Christ sake, a time to reflect on what I’d accomplished on behalf of the institution of higher learning I’d served so well.
But my plan to glide to a soft landing in the eternal quiet of the grave was hit by crosswinds, a downdraft and a stupid seagull in my right engine, so to speak. I’d been shocked so many times that the slightest sound–a fellow test subject chomping on Charles River Rat Pellets, the Grey Poupon of mouse lab cuisine, for example–would send me up the wall and out of my cage. That sort of behavior–as you might imagine–is frowned upon by underpaid adjunct lab assistants.
“I don’t care if you got an audition with the Boston Pops–pipe down!”
So out of the kindness of the humans’ hearts–I’ll continue when you stop laughing–they came up with cutting edge genetic tools to try to alter the emotional context of painful memories. The hope is that someday they’ll be able to use them to erase the painful recollections that torture humans like Jerry, my personal human lab rat. I see them come over his face whenever somebody brings a Diet Coke into the lunch room here at the Otto and Ruth B. Tucker Memorial Science Building; he recalls his senior high school prom, the pinnacle of his adolescent dating experience, when he spilled a cup of the brown beverage all over the white gown worn by his date, the zaftig Clydia Jean Wingo.
I want to help the poor sap, so I volunteered, hoping both he and I might find surcease of our respective sources of pain.
And so here I am sniffing xenon gas, hoping that I won’t be so jumpy when I hear loud noises from now on. This better be the decaf version.
Hmm–colorless and odorless, sort of like vodka. Swirl it around the old nostrils, then with one big gulp like a swimmer getting a mouthful of air on the breath stroke, I swallow it down.
Not bad–not bad at all. Now, to see if this stuff works.
They start flashing images designed to recall the pain of electric shock; an electric chair, a toaster oven, an annoying solo by a “shred” guitar player. Okay, I can handle this. Is that all ya got? C’mon, show me a live 220 volt wire or something.
They keep ’em coming, but all I can think of is–mingling with mice of the opposite sex. How . . . pleasant.
So this is what my new life will be like; all the pain and suffering I’ve been through before to earn my daily bread–gone! And in its place images of Veronica, the cute little Peromyscus leucopus over in the hamster wheel division. Gosh, she’d be so nice to come home to, as the old Cole Porter song put it.
What? What’s that? Her image seems to be speaking to me, as in a dream: Please put the lettuce away in the fridge, you don’t like it room temperature? Don’t take a nap with my head on the throw pillows? Could I at least send my mother-in-law a birthday card for once? Would it kill me not to roll my eyes when Grey’s Anatomy is on?
Call the FDA–the cure is worse than the disease.
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Wild Animals of Nature!”