Memory implants could one day be possible in human beings, according to the findings of a MIT study published on Thursday in the journal Science.
Susumu Tonegawa, a Nobel laureate and Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist, led the research, which successfully implanted false memories into the brains of lab mice.
According to Boston.com, Tonegawa’s team used “genetic techniques” for the memory implants. This action allowed them to trigger specific lab mice brain cells with light through a process known as optogenetics.
The mice then recalled having been painfully zapped and reacted in fear as they would have to an actual memory, even though the shocks never occurred within that location.
Tonegawa said that when a mouse recalls and anticipates an unpleasant experience, it freezes in place. With that in mind, the researchers placed genetically engineered mice into a red-lit chamber with a black cardboard floor, and the odor of vinegar.
“As each mouse explored, viruses injected into a part of the brain involved in memory tagged active cells, inserting a protein that is sensitive to light,” the Boston.com report stated.
The next day, the lab mice were placed into a very different looking chamber with the scent of benzaldehyde, which is almond-like, and with a metal grid floor.
Fiber optic cables were surgically implanted into the creatures’ brains. As the mice explored, researchers ignited a blue laser, “flipping on” the active cells from when the mice were in the first chamber.
The scientists then emitted three, two-second long shocks to the animals’ feet. Afterward, when the mice were returned to the first chamber, they froze in anticipation of the shocks despite not having experienced the trauma there.
“We suspect and hypothesize this way of implanting false memories that was carried out with a mouse is actually something very similar [to what] is taking place during the formation of false human memory,” Tonegawa said.
Added MIT neuroscientist Ann Graybiel: “This paper presents stunning evidence for the exquisite specificity of microcircuits that produce memory… This work is a landmark piece of science and has broad implications for understanding how we create memories and how we can recall them.”
This memory implants study is just the latest cool finding that science has given us this year. In fact, earlier this week, researchers reportedly pinpointed the “misery molecule” responsible for causing stress, anxiety, and depression.
And just last month, researchers discovered evidence showing that liposuction fat contained valuable stem cells. (Good news for an obese nation.)
As for memory implants, if they do become possible for humans, would you have one done?
[Image via ShutterStock]