You keep a critical file safe to remember about it when you receive one. Our memories, similarly, begin in one area of our brains and then migrate to another for long-term storage.
Memory consolidation is the process by which memories are modified.
Akihiro Goto at Kyoto University studied this phenomenon by using mouse brain samples in order to change memories.
Previously, it was believed that once a memory was formed, it could never be changed. Goto’s research has overturned this long-held belief.
He found that by stimulating certain areas of the brain, he could change the way a mouse remembered something. In one experiment, he trained mice to fear the smell of cherry blossoms.
When the odor was associated with an electric shock, the mice froze. When he later removed their brains and simulated a cherry blossom smell, they once again panicked as if being shocked.
However, when he stimulated a certain area of the brain that produced acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps transfer signals in the brain, the memories were rewritten.
Although the mice remembered the initial shock, they did not show any fear when later exposed to the same scent.
Long-Term Potentiation (LTP)
Long-Term Potentiation (LTP) is a process that strengthens connections between neurons that are stimulated simultaneously. It is believed to be one of the main cellular mechanisms for learning and memory.
Goto artificially induced LTP in the brain and found that he could rewrite memories by essentially making new connections between neurons or erasing existing ones.
The research was limited because it only worked with negative experiences, but Goto is hopeful that it can be applied to positive experiences as well.
It’s possible that this research could lead to new treatments for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Alzheimer’s disease, which are caused by damaged or lost memories.
The implications of Goto’s research are profound.
It has long been assumed that our memories are fixed and immutable. This research shows that it is possible to change them, essentially rewriting our past.
While this may seem like a scary prospect at first, it also has the potential to be quite liberating. If we can change the memories that are causing us pain or trauma, we can free ourselves from their grip.
With further research, this could become a reality.
Men in Black inspiration
The new research on memory manipulation has already drawn comparisons to the 1997 science fiction movie Men in Black, in which aliens use a device to erase people’s memories of encounters with them.
In the movie, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) uses the device to erase his partner’s memories of his daughter, who has recently died. This scene from the movie is also featured in a trailer for the film.
In this clip, Agent K uses his neuralyzer device to erase the memory of a young boy who has seen an alien while traveling on a train.
His research team used light to disable proteins involved in long-term potentiation. cofilin, a protein required for the synapse to function, was inhibited by the illumination of mouse brains.
The brains are injected with AAV, a popular gene therapy vector, to make a chimeric protein containing cofilin and fluorescein SuperNova.
When these proteins are exposed to light, they generate reactive oxygen that deactivates neighboring molecules such as cofilin.
In the study, after mice were trained to fear a smell, they exhibited freezing behavior when subsequently exposed to the odor. However, this response was eliminated when cofilin was inhibited in the brain using light-sensitive proteins.
The present study provides convincing evidence that LTP-induced synaptic plasticity can be reversed on demand by specifically inhibiting cofilin activity using light-sensitive proteins in the brain. These results suggest that neuronal circuits involved in fear memory can be manipulated on demand to erase fear memories without affecting other types of memory.
Akihiro Goto, Researcher at Kyoto University
Synaptic abnormalities such as LTP-induction deficits and abnormal spine morphology were significantly improved in the 3xTg-AD mice by inhibiting cofilin activity through illumination with blue light for one hour.
“We expect that the present study will lead to new treatments for various neurological disorders involving cognitive impairment.”
Goto’s research has important implications for the study of memory and behavior.
In addition to shedding light on the fundamental mechanism of learning and memory, it has direct implications for possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, drug addiction and other conditions that involve abnormal brain function.
Goto is currently investigating how LTP could be manipulated to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are now investigating whether this method will also work to erase memories in the brains of patients with neurodegenerative diseases or psychiatric conditions, so as to achieve a permanent cure for them.”
This research shows that it is possible to change memories. While this may seem like a scary prospect at first, it also has the potential to be quite liberating.
If we can change the memories that are causing us pain or trauma, we can free ourselves from their grip. With further research, this could become a reality.