(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.
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.
Man Finds Out His Grandparents’ Home Once Belonged To Girlfriend Of Serial Killer Ted Bundy
A user of Reddit has seemingly Adiscovered that his grandparents live in the same home where infamous serial killer Ted Bundy once lived.
In a post to the social platform, a photo of the user’s grandparents’ fireplace can be seen along with a picture displayed on a phone that shows a couple appearing to be posing in the same living room. The post reads: “Ted Bundy dated someone who used to live in my grandparents’ house.”
The well-known photo shows Ted Bundy embracing Elizabeth Kloepfer, who dated Bundy during his brutal killing spree that claimed about 30 lives between 1974 and 1978.
Klopfer later reported her boyfriend to the police after recognizing his face in a composite sketch. However, the police failed to apprehend him at the time due to the large influx of tips regarding possible suspects of the serial murders.
She later reported Bundy again after realizing that women were disappearing near Salt Lake City, Utah – not far from where the couple lived, and quite possibly where the home on Reddit is located.
However, this attempt also failed after a witness couldn’t identify the serial murderer in a line-up.
Bundy later allegedly scorched the head of one of his victims in the fireplace presumably pictured in the Reddit post before ditching the body in a mountain.
Bundy told then-detective Robert Keppel: “Of all the things I did to [Kloepfer], this is probably the one she is least likely to forgive me for. Poor Liz.”
Bundy was given the death penalty for his crimes and was finally executed on Jan. 24, 1989.
Redditors were convinced that the fireplace shown in the post was the same one that belonged to Kloepfer.
“That’s not ‘someone,’” one user wrote. “That’s THE one. He dated Liz for a majority of his active years.”
Another user added: “Right. And wasn’t he with Liz when he said he’d burned some body parts of a victim in a fireplace? Could this be THE fireplace?”
The original poster eventually returned to the thread to explain that they learned that the home did, indeed, once return to Kloepfer.
“The house was built for a doctor and his family who turned out to be Liz,” the poster wrote. “Liz dated Teddy for a good part of his active years and they broke up when he got arrested and had to leave the state I believe.”
“My family bought the house a few years ago with zero relation to ‘ol Teddy,” they added. “Just crazy coincidence!”
New York Times Publishes, Then Pulls, Strange Article About ‘Fields of Watermelons on Mars’
The New York Times has long been known as the “Grey Lady of Journalism,” reflecting the newspaper’s institutional identity as a credible and respectable source of daily news.
However, on Tuesday an extremely bizarre claim graced the pages of the “paper of record”: that fields of watermelons had been discovered on Mars, a discovery made by police.
The story, which appeared as a stub, was pulled within an hour of publication. However, an archived snapshot of the “scoop” still remains.
“Authorities say rise of fruit aliens is to blame for glut of outer space watermelons,” read the story, according to a cached copy from Google News. “The FBI declined to comment on reports of watermelons raining down, but confirmed that kiwis have been intercepted.”
“This story is terribly boring,” it read.
The article has been replaced with a message noting that the story had been “published in error.”
The fact that the publication was likely the result of either a prank or human error is clear based on the byline, which attributes the story to a “Joe Schmoe.”
According to Futurism, the newspaper hasn’t yet addressed the strange incident. However, the website speculates that it may well have been an erroneous publication of a some test of the company’s backend content management system.
It goes without saying that while NASA missions and a Chinese rover are scouring Mars for native life, no large melons or kiwis have been discovered on the Red Planet.
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