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Building On San Diego Research, MIT Scientists Plant False Memories In Mice

Aired 7/29/13 on KPBS News.

If the latest research on so-called "memory implants" sounds strangely familiar, your mind isn't playing tricks on you. Last week's study describing a method of producing false memories in mice builds on similar work pioneered in San Diego.

If the latest research on so-called "memory implants" sounds strangely familiar, your mind isn't playing tricks on you.

Last week's study describing a method of producing false memories in mice builds on similar work pioneered in San Diego. A new paper out of MIT proves that scientists can now make mice remember things that never really happened. A local team of neuroscientists almost pulled this off last year, but MIT's Susumu Tonegawa and his colleagues have more clearly demonstrated the possibility of manipulating mouse memories.

TriStar Pictures

In Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger's character tries to buy an artificial memory of a Martian vacation. Now, science has made such "memory implants" possible. But only in mice. And instead of a vacation, the memories bring back the sting of an electric shock.

"Essentially they're putting a thought into the animal's head," said Mark Mayford. He leads the Scripps Research Institute lab that published their ability to create "hybrid memories" in mice last year. Mayford also helped genetically engineer the mice used by the MIT researchers.

The mice in these experiments were made to think they'd received an electric shock in one box when they'd actually been shocked in a totally different box.

"[The researchers] are showing that they can essentially take the perception of Box A and produce it in the animal artificially by stimulating the right set of neurons," said Mayford.

Mayford says we're a long way off from turning mind-bending movies like Total Recall, Inception, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind into a reality.

"This is basic research on animals," he said. "In humans, we're not going to open them up and put modifying genes into people's brains."

But he thinks this research could help scientists better understand the nature of memory and brain-based diseases such as schizophrenia.

Comments

Avatar for user 'mohammad ashori'

mohammad ashori | July 30, 2013 at 8:32 a.m. ― 8 months, 3 weeks ago

with all the technology we have now and as advanced as we are as humans i don't see the need of animal research...

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