(TMU) — Scientists have known for some time that specific circuits in the brain react to experiences and encode those same experiences into our minds as memories. These memories are central to our identity and the narrative we construct about ourselves and the world around us.
In past experiments, neuroscientists have been able to partially transfer memories between rodents but they have never wholesale manufactured false memories—until now.
A recent study, the results of which were published in the journal Nature with the provocative title Memory formation in the absence of experience, has demonstrated for the first time the complex and stunning process by which memories can be generated inside the minds of animals and retained just as cohesively in everyday experience as natural memories.
It’s a huge discovery in the still-nascent scientific industry of “memory manipulation,” which aims to assist patients with conditions like Alzheimers and PTSD.
The paper’s abstract postulates that “memory is coded by patterns of neural activity in distinct circuits. Therefore, it should be possible to reverse engineer a memory by artificially creating these patterns of activity in the absence of a sensory experience.”
Scientists proved this hypothesis by essentially reverse engineered a memory and then exporting it. Specifically, a natural memory was created in the mind of a mouse.
In this case, it was the memory of a foot shock which was associated with an odor, the smell of cherry blossoms. The mouse learned it could avoid the shock (and the smell of cherry blossoms) by circumnavigating its direction to an adjacent chamber that triggered another odor, the smell of caraway.
The next phase of the experiment involved identifying how those scents affect the brain and manipulating that mechanism. According to the researchers, caraway originates from the chemical carvone and cherry blossom from acetophenone. Acetophenone triggers an olfactory sensory nerve cell receptor which creates a memory of the smell.
Scientists used optogenetics—a complex process of using light-sensitive proteins and implanted optic fibers to manually stimulate certain neurons—to train the mice to associate the electrical foot shock with optogenetic light. This corroborated the belief that they didn’t need to actually experience the odor to identify an association between the foot shock and the smell. That connection could be manually created.
To complete the artificially infused memory though, scientists had to go one step further and simulate the foot shock aversion too, which they did by using a virus to embed light-sensitive proteins into the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the nerve pathways.
This, according to Scientific American author, Robert Marcone, meant, “The animals recalled the artificial memory, responding to an odor they had never encountered by avoiding a shock they had never received.”
In summation, scientists reverse engineered a memory in mouse #1 to learn the blueprint of brain circuits that created the specific memory; then they used light to “hack” brain circuits and artificially implanted that memory into mouse #2. Mouse #2 acted as if he directly recalled the foot shocks associated with smelling cherry blossoms even though he had experienced neither the foot shocks nor the scent of cherry blossoms. Scientists engineered that memory into his little mind.
The big question is whether this is possible in the significantly more complex human mind and, if so, is it ethical for scientists to tamper with human memory?
As with most major scientific advancements, the field of memory manipulation carries both great promise and great peril, existential risk and reward, that must be carefully considered and counter-balanced. Treatment of diseases like Alzheimers and other conditions like PTSD from rape or war trauma, or other mental illnesses, is incredibly tempting.
However, if the technology is wielded nefariously by corporations or governments, it could warp our reality into something beyond horrifying—something we don’t even remember.
FBI Seizes Capitol Building LEGO Set From Alleged Rioter’s House
Many of us know, either from our childhood or even our adulthood, that building and collecting LEGO can be a fun hobby that allows us to tap into our creativity in a relaxing, stress-free way.
But what if someone’s LEGO hobby is something much more nefarious – or even seditious in the eyes of the government?
Such may have been the case when special agents with the FBI confiscated a fully completed LEGO set of the U.S. Capitol Building from the home of Robert Morss, 27, whom they allege participated in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, according to court documents published by The Smoking Gun.
The large LEGO set is comprised of 1,032 pieces and was released in 2016 and is no longer available for retail. The agents seized the finished set along with other items matching those they believe Morss had in his possession when he allegedly stormed the building – including a neck gaiter, a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, a military-style satchel, a black tourniquet, and military battle dress uniforms.
The documents also note that he “had three different firearms including a handgun, a shotgun and a rifle” in his possession.
According to LEGO, the United States Capitol Building set “focuses on the structure’s neoclassical style facade, steps and lawns” and is “finished with a decorative ‘US Capitol’ nameplate.” In 2019, the product was “retired” – which has less to do with politics and more to do with the limited availability of the company’s unique product lines.
Morss, who is from Pennsylvania, was arrested last month on a range of federal charges. According to the Department of Justice, his alleged crimes “include assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of an official proceeding; civil disorder; and robbery of personal property of the United States.”
An FBI investigator’s affidavit notes that Morss joined rioters in direct confrontations with officers guarding the Lower West Terrace doors of the Capital in “an intense and prolonged clash between rioters and law enforcement.”
Law enforcement officers claim that they also found a notebook in Morss car that had instructions on a “Step by Step to Create Hometown Militia” that included a list of names, equipment, and sections on “ambush,” “battle drills,” and “formations.” The notebook also contained notes that said “bring assault rifle,” “4 magazines,” and “bring kit/body armor.”
However, the court documents do not indicate whether the LEGO set was deployed in tactical drills prior to the botched uprising.
The DOJ says that roughly 465 individuals have been arrested on charges related the events of Jan. 6.
Neptune, the Roman God of Water, ‘Emerges’ From Waves in Photo During UK Storm
If we were to believe our eyes, it would seem that the ancient Roman god of water himself made an appearance on the shores of New Haven, England, on a day of especially rough surf.
What appears to be the “face” of Neptune was captured on Tuesday when photographer Jeff Overs of the BBC was taking photos of waves crashing over the harbor wall in the port city.
Of course, one is free to believe that the ferocious deity emanated from the depths of the sea to remind us puny humans of his wrath.
But alas, it was likely a simple example of pareidolia – the phenomenon of seeing faces and figures in otherwise random or ambiguous everyday objects.
The photographer snapped the shot amid high tide and winds exceeding 50 miles per hour (80km/h), namely because of the violent nature of the shore.
“It’s become a popular location for photographers because the sea ‘boils’ in high wind against the sea wall,” Overs explained.
“The waves splash into the high wind and when blown back occasionally make patterns that look like ghoulish faces.”
Overs added that one of the small foreground waves even resembles a hand – albeit a pareidolic one.
“It’s a straight shot and I haven’t manipulated the image at all,” he added.
Lunar New Deal: GOP Lawmaker Suggests Altering Moon & Earth’s Orbit to Stop Climate Change
Texas Republican Congressman Louise Gohmert raised the eyebrows of his Congressional colleagues on Tuesday after seemingly suggesting that climate change could be combatted by changing the orbit of the moon, or even altering “Earth’s orbit around the sun.”
Gohmert, who has been decried as the “dumbest member of Congress” for his past absurdly anti-scientific comments regarding the ongoing pandemic and a number of other issues, has been a vocal opponent of progressive legislators’ attempts to put a “Green New Deal” on the government’s agenda.
However, his apparent suggestion of a “Lunar New Deal” to mitigate global warming could take the cake as his most hare-brained idea yet.
The comments came during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four pending bills while questioning Jennifer Eberlien of the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, reports NBC.
“I understand, from what’s been testified to the Forest Service and the B.L.M. [Bureau of Land Management], you want very much to work on the issue of climate change,” the Texas congressman began.
“I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they’ve found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun,” he continued.
“We know there’s been significant solar flare activity,” Gohmert said. “And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or B.L.M. can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?”
“Obviously that would have profound effects on our climate,” the lawmaker added.
Responding, Eberlein said with a smile: “I would have to follow up with on you on that one, Mr. Gohmert.”
“If you figure out there’s a way in the forest service you could make that change, I’d like to know,” Gohmert responded, without any trace of irony.
Longtime critics of the conservative legislator were besides themselves with bewilderment and mockery over the out-of-this-world suggestion.
On the opposite side of the aisle California Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu suggested that perhaps Marvel Comics superheroine Captain Marvel was up to the task.
“She can alter planetary orbits with her superpowers. I’m going to work on a bipartisan resolution asking for her help,” Lieu wrote on Twitter.
According to NASA, the Earth’s climate has changed throughout history for various reasons, including small variations in the planet’s orbit.
However, the agency’s website notes that this doesn’t discount the fact that anthropogenic or human-caused activities are the culprit of the current warming.
“The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over millennia,” the site says.