(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.
Scientists Discover New Organ In The Center Of The Human Head
Medical researchers have made a shocking historical anatomical discovery by finding a new organ located at the center of the human head that has been lurking there all along.
The finding was reported in Radiotherapy and Oncology. Researchers discovered the organ by accident thanks to doctors in the Netherlands, who were examining 100 patients for prostate cancer while performing an advanced type of scan called PSMA PET/CT. This diagnostic process when paired with injections of radioactive glucose highlights tumors in the body.
However, in this case, the researchers found something else entirely, nestled in the rear of the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx functions as an airway in the respiratory system. Also contained within the nasopharynx are the adenoids, or pharyngeal tonsils.
The new organ looks to be a mysterious set of salivary glands that have been hidden inside the human head. How this was discovered in 2020, missed for centuries is unknown, but until now, the human body has had three major salivary glands — parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands.
“People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there,” explains radiation oncologist Wouter Vogel from the Netherlands Cancer Institute. “As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1,000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these.”
Now, we can add a fourth located behind the nose and above the palate, close to the center of the human head.
“The two new areas that lit up turned out to have other characteristics of salivary glands as well,” said one of the first author of the study, oral surgeon Matthijs Valstar from the University of Amsterdam.
“We call them tubarial glands, referring to their anatomical location [above the torus tubarius].”
These tubarial glands were seen to exist in the PSMA PET/CT scans of all the 100 patients, revealing visible draining duct openings towards the nasopharyngeal wall.
“To our knowledge, this structure did not fit prior anatomical descriptions,” the researchers explained in their paper.
It’s worth noting that there are an additional approximately 1,000 minor salivary glands situated throughout the oral cavity and the digestive tract. Although, these are not seen without a microscope according to Scientific Alert.
The researchers suggest the organ is found at a poorly accessible anatomical location under the skull base, which explains why it has been missed all of these centuries. The medical professionals note that it’s possible they may have noticed the duct openings, but it’s unlikely they would have realized the structures were apart of a larger gland system. But thanks to newer technology allowing advanced PSMA-PET/CT imaging techniques, seeing the macroscopical organ was possible.
The study needs to be replicated and validated. However, pathologist said that the team may be on to something and if its real it could change the way we view diseases in that region of the skull.
“It seems like they may be onto something,” pathologist Valerie Fitzhugh from Rutgers University, who wasn’t involved with the study, told The New York Times.
“If it’s real, it could change the way we look at disease in this region.”
Pastor Says God Intended Earth As A ‘Disposable Planet’ In Climate Sermon
American pastor John MacArthur made headlines this year for his defiance of COVID restrictions, which has brought new attention to his catalog of sermons, and they contain some outrageous claims, as many would suspect.
In one sermon where he discusses environmentalism, he claims that Earth is a “disposable planet.”
“God intended us to use this planet to fill this planet for the benefit of man. Never was intended to be a permanent planet. It is a disposable planet. Christians ought to know that,” MacArthur said
He went on to say that, “Yes its beauty can be seen. I’ve been everywhere on this planet, and I’ll tell you, it is a stunning and glorious thing to stand and look at a distance at the beauty of this planet. But the closer you get to it, the more deadly it becomes. I’ve seen the beauty of the great Alps, the Southern Alps and the Northern Alps. But I’ll tell you what, I don’t want to be up there by myself for a week. I’ve seen the beauty of the great deserts of the world, but I don’t want to be out there alone without water by myself. I want to be somewhere where there’s a building and that building has air conditioning and water. I want to go where people have subdued the creation. I’m not under any foolish assumptions that if we just let it go wild, we’ll preserve life. If you let it go, the wilder it is, the more deadly it is.”
In the same sermon, he goes on to say that he would prefer all of nature to be tamed, and even praised the De Beers diamond mines. He went on a strange rant admitting that slave labor was used to mine diamonds, but then added that “God loves jewelry.”
“Get all the pearls you can. Dig up all the diamonds you can. Get all the natural resources you can, the replenishable resources, natural gas and oil and everything that God has put in this planet. It’s an absolutely staggering little piece that’s floating around in infinite space,” he said.
The sermon is called “The End of the Universe Part 2” and can be seen below:
The transcript can be read here.
He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective. MacArthur has written or edited more than 150 books, most notably the MacArthur Study Bible, which has sold more than 1 million copies and received a Gold Medallion Book Award. Other best-selling books include his MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series (more than 1 million copies), Twelve Ordinary Men (more than 500,000 copies), and the children’s book A Faith to Grow On, which garnered an ECPA Christian Book Award.
MacArthur has been involved with multiple controversies regarding his outspokenness on certain topics. MacArthur is very open about opposing same-sex marriage, against female pastors, and the social justice movement.
“No Love, No Tacos”: Mexican restaurant accused of insulting “Christianity & America” for sign
A Mexican restaurant in a small Iowa town has become a focus of attention by locals after posting a yard sign explaining his political stance, drawing both controversy and support from customers over the anti-racist message.
Alfonso Medina owns La Carreta in Marshalltown, Iowa, a restaurant that has been serving such beloved Mexican dishes as chile verde, enchiladas, and burritos for 20 years. The town lies about 50 miles northeast of Des Moines.
However, amid the increasingly polarized political and racial climate in the United States, Medina decided that it was time to make a simple statement addressing questions of basic respect and social equity.
Locals in the small Midwestern town quickly responded to the message, with some residents excoriating the restaurant for making a political stance.
Rather than taking the sign down, Medina decided to place a much bigger sign on his yard that read: “NO LOVE, NO TACOS.”
For Medina, the issue is simple: if businesses such as Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby can openly support Christian causes and donate to anti-LGBTQ organizations, then it’s only right that small business owners like him can share their views to motivate open dialogue and conversations within the community.
Medina also sees the issue of racism as personal. While he was born in Iowa, his own parents migrated from Mexico before finding success with their family business in the small community of Marshalltown. Medina proudly claims that he was “Made in Mexico, delivered in the U.S.”
His vocal stances have garnered some support from the community, allowing the restaurant to thrive despite the pandemic and keep its employees on payroll.
In August, Medina dug his heels in and put up a sign in August that read “WE BELIEVE: Black Lives Matter – no human is illegal – love is love – Women’s rights are human rights – science is real – water is life – injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“I didn’t think there was anything bad,” he told CNN, explaining that his wife called him “brave” for erecting the sign in front of the restaurant.
His social media feed was quickly inundated with heated criticism over the sign. Some residents even sent hate mail to La Caretta, including one letter accusing the restaurant of having “gone completely POLITICALLY CORRECT (leftist/Marxist),” adding that Medina’s sign “insults & disrespects Christianity & America.”
Medina decided to share the letter on Facebook, where he explained his position.
“If a white-owned company has the right to be vocal about their beliefs, big or small, so does a minority-owned tax-generating business,” Medina wrote in a post to his Facebook profile. “Minority-owned businesses should not shy away from being vocal or thinking they have to keep to themselves their thoughts.”
“I’m sorry if the yard sign has offended anyone, but I don’t believe anything on there is offensive,” he added. “If anything, everything on there is true. And I stand behind it.”
Continuing, he explained that the letters were giving him more strength in being vocal about his stance. “Si ladran es porque vamos avanzando,” he added, which means “If they bark, it signifies we are advancing.”
In a separate Instagram post, he wrote, “We’re sorry your burrito had to get political, but it was the only way y’all would listen.”
He ended the post with a phrase that has, in his words, since launched a movement: “No Love, No Tacos.”
The phrase quickly went viral, and became the new slogan for the Mexican eatery.
“I am someone who takes something negative and tries to turn it into something 10 times more positive,” he said. “If they don’t want us, they should align their ideals and their comments with the food they eat.”
Medina has since copyrighted the slogan, and has a website where customers can buy t-shirts and hoodies with the iconic phrase. All proceeds will go toward scholarships to the local community college. Medina has already sold over 450 shirts and raised $4,000 to distribute to recipients.
He also put up a much larger billboard reading “No Love, No Tacos” that is much bigger than the original sign.
Business is now booming at La Carreta, with customers flooding the restaurant to enjoy its nachos, tacos, and celebrated “California Burrito” – which was named one of the best burritos in the country by The Food Network.
Medina now hopes that he can use his platform to encourage people to vote. He is also advocating for turning Election Day into a national holiday.
“Election Day should be one of the most important days for our country — one day, every four years for our democracy,” Medina told Iowa Starting Line. “And we believe businesses should close on Election Day in order to let their employees go out and vote.”
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