By Janet Fang
Posting in Energy
Two groups of researchers manipulate brain cells to create false mouse memories of fear. Understanding how memories are created offers insight into Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and PTSD.
Understanding how memories are created offers some insight into Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and post traumatic stress disorder, the researchers say.
Memories are thought to be formed and stored in specific populations of neurons in the brain. Stimulating some regions can trigger behaviors and recollections. In the early 1900s, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield treated epilepsy patients by scooping out parts of the brain where seizures originated. He stimulated parts of the brain with tiny jolts of electricity and patients reported recalling complex events.
In these new 21st-century redesigns, the researchers created false memories by making mice recall fearful situations of mild electrical shock. By activating artificial memory in the mice, they reconditioned them to fear electric shocks even when there were none.
From the east coast, a team led by Susumu Tonegawa from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, demonstrates that a behavioral response to a specific memory can be induced by reactivating cells that were active when the memory was originally made.
- They genetically engineered mice with neurons that expressed light-activated proteins (a technique called optogenetics). Specifically, they coupled the light-activated protein with the set of neurons that fired only when a mouse was learning about a new environment and forming memories.
- The mice were put into a box and allowed to explore. As they formed memories of that box, the neurons involved became responsive to light.
- After exploring the box, they received a mild electric shock to the foot – so that they learned to fear the environment where the shock occurred.
- Then they were put into a different box, and pulses of light were delivered to their brains through implanted optic fibers.
- When exposed to the light in a different environment, the neurons involved in the fear memory switched on – and the mice quickly froze into a defensive crouch, suggesting how they actually recalled the memory of being shocked. They perceived this replay of a fearful memory – even though the memory was artificially reactivated.
- Minutes later when the light was turned off, the mice moved normally.
From the west coast, a team led by Mark Mayford from Scripps Research Institute combined external cues with imaginary brain activity to create a ‘hybrid’ memory.
- They genetically engineered mice so that neurons that fired while a memory was made would fire again when the brain was injected with a drug.
- The mice were put into a box, and their neurons formed a memories as they explored. White walls and floor, no particular odors. Because these neurons fired during memory-making, they could be reactivated when the drug was injected, allowing the researchers to induce an involuntary memory of the box.
- When the mice were put into a second box, they were given a drug injection – which made them remember the first, white box.
- In that second box (wintergreen-scented with a black-and-white checkered wall and a gridded floor), they were given a small electric shock.
- Reactivating the memory of the white room during the shock session taught the mice to associate the combination of the reactivated memory and the black-and-white room with a shock – forming a hybrid memory.
- As a result, the mice developed a fear of a mixture of both boxes – an artificial memory of an imaginary environment. The only time they froze was when they were in the second, black-and-white box and the drug was injected.
Researchers might eventually target the perception process through drug treatment to deal with certain mental diseases such as schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. Patients’ brains produce false perceptions or disable fears. And drug treatments might target the neurons involved when a patient thinks about such fear, to turn off the neurons involved and interfere with the disruptive thought patterns.
And perhaps one day, memories could be kept alive for Alzheimer’s patients. Maybe if you stimulate the memory, they won’t ever forget it; maybe you can stimulate a good memory when something is horrible.
Images by viridovipera via Flickr
Mar 22, 2012
the researchers did not "plant false memories" but "planted false experiences" based on real memories. big difference.
Think of the implications of having a certain group of people with the ability to create false memories in other people. Really scary stuff. However, I am more concerned about the use of mice in these experiments and the transferability of the research results to the human population. Such experiments are notoriously unreliable and of limited value. I personally see no socially redeeming value in torturing small defenseless animals for this type of research. Want the real facts? Do the research on people. See how that flies.
Does anyone remember Pavlov's dogs? Isn't it amazing what people get paid to do? How about getting Alzheimers patients to write down their memories before they forget? Then they can refer to them later. Rather like writing your memoirs. Let's face it, we all forget things
The link at the end of the article for "memories could be kept alive for Alzheimer???s patients" points instead to an article for "iRobot introduces new floor washing robots". I also wish the links to the two research groups could point to more than just the authors' bio pages.
http://www.myvoguestore.com wholesale jersey,shoes,jean,cap,handbag,sunglass,s??? jewelry software and so on. All products sold at the website with good quality,free shipping,the price is very cheap. They can accept paypal. Hope this is useful for you
Thanks, I just fixed the link in the last paragraph; it should be a Boston Globe story. If you'd like to know more about each of the studies, the links are at the end of the post.