Scientists one small step closer to memory alteration

Xavier Symons
5 September 2014
Reproduced with Permission

Scientists from MIT say they have managed to manipulate 'good' and 'bad' memories in mice, in a study that may have significant impact on research into human memory alteration.

The study , published in a recent edition of Nature, examined the neuronal circuits thought to be responsible for triggering memory recall in mice. The researchers said they successfully used optogenics technology to activate circuits bearing specific memories.

Researchers created good memories in male mice by giving them time with groups of females, whilst bad memories were created by electrocuting the mice' feet. The researchers then studied the way the mice reacted when the memories were activated in an empty space. When 'bad memory' circuits were activated, the mice ran away from the space, whilst when 'good memory' circuits were queued the mice stayed.

The results are said to indicate the existence of a precise physiological substrate for individual memories. This may mean that one day scientists will be able to 'turn off' particular distressing memories in patients suffering from conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"Imagine you can go in and find a particular traumatic memory and turn it off or change it somehow," said David Moorman , an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "That's still science fiction, but with this we're getting a lot closer to it."