Scientists have successfully managed to hack into the brains of the mice as they slept and implanted "happy memories," thereby paving the way for memory manipulation that would one day ensure permanent jovial disposition in humans.
The team from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CRNS) in France, has successfully hacked into the brains of napping mice, implanting false but cheerful memories via electrode stimulation. These scientists have successfully demonstrated that memory manipulation during sleep is possible.
The team managed to create positive feelings about a specific location that five mice had explored previously during the day. They achieved the feat by stimulating their brains as they slept. So strong were these euphoric feelings that when the mice woke up, they immediately wandered back to that location, presumably seeking some kind of reward, explained lead author Karim Benchenane.
"The mouse develops a goal-directed behavior to go towards the place. It proves that it's not an automatic behavior. What we create is an association between a particular place and a reward that can be consciously accessed by the mouse."Fortunately, the primary intentions of the researchers is to treat people suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), continued Benchenane.
"The idea is to use this as a tool for post-traumatic stress disorder. I think this is a really important step towards helping people with memory impairments or depression."But before the scientists could "correct" or "erase" painful or bad memories, they needed to confirm the hypothesis worked and mice were the ideal candidates. Moreover, the researchers wanted to test the hypothesis that mice, like humans, consolidate memories as they sleep, replaying the day's events and learning in the process.
To establish a link between the day's events and locate the specific neurons that were responsible for memory formation, processing, and retention, the researchers implanted electrodes into the hippocampus -- the region of the brain associated with memory formation -- of five mice. The electrodes recorded neural activity while the mice explored a new environment, and the researchers were able to pinpoint spikes in activity associated with specific locations.
To correlate the neurons associated with memory with happy thoughts, the researchers stimulated a region of the brain associated with pleasure each time the mice "thought" of the locations, explained Jessica Hamzelou.
"When the mice awoke, they made a beeline for the location represented by the place cell that had been linked to a rewarding feeling in their sleep. A brand new memory -- linking a place with reward -- had been formed."Though it is quite premature to hypothesize at the moment, one day, such memory manipulation techniques could make our dreams really pleasant, ensuring a deep sleep and happy disposition in the morning. It's an interesting, if somewhat troubling, premise, but in the near future, with more testing and less invasive procedures, people could easily forget their bad past or at least associate happy feelings with a place instead of remorse, sadness, or dejection.
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