It seems that science fiction scenarios that involve erasing memories, which so far could be seen only in movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Men In Black, or movies like The Bourne Identity, are going to become a reality. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have managed to erase and then restore lost memory in genetically modified rats. The study, published in the journal Nature, is the first to demonstrate the possibility of strengthening or weakening the connections between the brain cells, which can affect particular memories.
Dr. Roberto Malinow, professor of neurosciences at the University of California and lead author of the study, together with his research team stimulated with optical lasers a group of nerves in the brains of rats that had been made sensitive to light through genetic modification. At the same time, animals were subjected to electric shock.
The rats quickly associated optical pulses with pain and showed fear responses every time their brain nerves were stimulated. After that, the scientists stimulated the same nerves in a different way – by using the low-frequency sequence of optical pulses.
As a result, the rats did not respond to the stimulation with fear, which means that the memory associated with pain had been erased.
As Dr Malinow said, “We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections.”
Moreover, the researchers managed to restore the lost memories by re-stimulation of the same nerves with high-frequency pulses. Once again, the rats displayed fear responses, although this time they were not subjected to electric shock. “We were playing with memory like a yo-yo,” said Manilow in a news-release.
Although it is too early to think about using this method in humans, the researchers believe that the findings of the study could contribute to the treatment of the diseases like Alzheimer’s disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The fact is that the beta-amyloid protein weakens neural connections in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease in a similar way as the scientists erased memories in rats by low-frequency stimulation.
“Since our work shows we can reverse the processes that weaken synapses, we could potentially counteract some of the beta amyloid’s effects in Alzheimer’s patients,” said Malinow.
While experiments with this have most likely been going on since well into the 1940’s (maybe sooner), this is the first time it has been documented and published in a scientific journal. With the high probability of this type of technology being, or already being militarized, and the reality of the control-freak corporate world that dominates much of society, one cannot help but think that this wouldn’t be used for it’s medical applications. It’s definitely something to think about.
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