Memories have been partially transferred in rodents by using recordings of electrical activity of a trained animalâ€™s memory center (the hippocampus) to stimulate similar patterns of nerve activity in a recipient animal. This process is similar to the new report described here, in that stimulating the electrical activity of specific neural circuits is used to elicit a memory. In the case of memory transfer, that pattern came from trained animals, whereas in the optogenetics study, the pattern of electrical activity associated with the memory was built de novo within brain of the mouse. This is the first report of a completely artificial memory, and it helps establish some fundamental understanding of how memories may be manipulated.
There are legitimate motives underlying these efforts. Memory has been called â€œthe scribe of the soul,â€ and it is the source of oneâ€™s personal history. Some people may seek to recover lost or partially lost memories. Others, such as those afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain, might seek relief from traumatic memories by trying to erase them.
The methods used here to create artificial memories will not be employed in humans anytime soon: none of us are transgenic like the animals used in the experiment, nor are we likely to accept multiple implanted fiber-optic cables and viral injections. Nevertheless, as technologies and strategies evolve, the possibility of manipulating human memories becomes all the more real.
It interests me though to see how much we are hearing this last year about progress with manipulating the brain to send and receive signals to control limbs and now also progress even with elementary "memories". Of course, human thought and memories is probably way more complex than with elementary behaviours by animals, but whilst I would not want to tamper with my own brain (in its current form) I'm wondering what the possibilities may be with an already non-functioning brain where a chance of improvement is to be had. Science fiction seems to be becoming a reality in the near future.
#brain A Successful Artificial Memory Has Been Created
The growing science of memory manipulation raises social and ethical questions