Have you always wanted to climb the mountains of Mars… but you’re over the hill?
Don’t give up. Scientists are on track to implanting memories from one animal to the another.
The premise that so famously put Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) on the run in the 1990 sci-fi classic Total Recall has been proven possible in a study of sea snails.
First, David Glanzman at the University of California taught an untrained California sea hare (Aplysia californica) to react defensively to “tail stimulation” – a shock.
Once the snail had established an involuntary defensive reflex, the team extracted its ribonucleic acid (RNA).
And when the RNA was injected in an untrained sea snail, it immediately responded to the shock in the same way.
According to Glanzman, that suggests RNA can be used to create an engram. Engrams are, roughly speaking, the stuff memories are made of. Specifically, how memories are stored.
There’s little doubt they exist, but where they exist and how they work is still the subject of decades of research.
Long-term memory is thought to be housed within modified connections between brain cells.
Glanzman, however, was testing an alternative theory that memory storage may be linked to changes in gene expression. By introducing non-coding RNA, memories may be modified.
Glanzman also tested the theory on cultured sensory neurons he extracted from the untrained snails that controlled the defensive reflex. He found that introducing the RNA directly to the neurons “increased (their) excitability”.
Clearly, it’s a long way from making you believe you’d spent two weeks on another planet, but the possibility of scientists helping you “remember” something you’d never done before is real.
And maybe one day, they can remember it for you wholesale.
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