Mouse-ception: False Memories Research Success

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found a way to use light to control memory function. “Not playing in Boston: a mouse version of ‘Inception.’”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hP9D6kZseM

This research is a big step in the direction of treating a wide variety of serious psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia.

The study begins by altering my mice’s DNA, inserting a light-sensitive protein that “activates when the mice form new memories.” By affecting the hippocampus area of the brain with flashes of light (a technique called optogenetics), the researchers could control the mice’s memory function.

The mice were exposed to a mild electrical shock in a specific room. They could pinpoint how the light protein affected the neurons.

The mice were then placed in a safe room. Still, they “immediately showed fear when scientists activated the neurons associated with the danger-room memories.”

Then, the scientists “triggered the memory of the safe room while at the same time delivering a shock. Doing so enabled them to swap the ‘good’ memory with a ‘bad’ one…they froze as if it was the danger room.”

Professor Susumu Tongeawa of MIT says that the brain processes false and genuine memories the same, especially since humans are “highly imaginative animals.”

This could be why high-pressure situations (for example, witnessing a crime) lead to people giving false statements. The questioning may trigger a memory.

Now, philosophical questions can become bases for hypotheses, and we’re excited to see where these questions lead.

You can see the full article here, at NY Daily News.