News / Science & Technology

False Memories Planted in Lab Mice

File -  Researchers have successfully planted false memories in laboratory mice.
File - Researchers have successfully planted false memories in laboratory mice.

Related Articles

Video Motion Filtering Ability Correlated to High IQ

Rapid processing is of little utility unless it is restricted to most relevant information, researches say

As Ocean Supply Dries Up, Fishing For a Feed Alternative

With the supply of wild-caught fish dwindling, scientists investigate giving farmed fish a plant-based diet

Social Media Helps Farmers Avoid Food Waste

Growers use technology to reach those interested in buying surplus local produce
TEXT SIZE - +
VOA News
Scientists have successfully planted false memories in laboratory mice, a feat that may one day have far-reaching consequences, especially in the legal system.

Eyewitness court testimony was a factor in 75 percent of guilty verdicts that were later overturned by DNA testing, according to the Innocence Project.

One of the most well-known cases of false memories came during one of the longest trials in American history, when a family who operated a preschool was charged with numerous accounts of child abuse. The trial lasted seven years, with some charges dropped after many of the accusations were proved to be based on false memories. The case led to the establishment of the term “False Memory Syndrome” and the foundation of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

The phenomenon of false memory is well documented, but until now it has seemed more science fiction than reality. In fact, the notion of deliberately planted false memories was the main plot device in Hollywood sci-fi movies such as "Total Recall" and "Inception."

In a paper appearing in the journal Science describing how false memories were planted in mice, MIT researchers have taken a step in understanding how false memories arise and found that the “neurological traces of these memories are identical in nature to those of authentic memories.”

“Whether it’s a false or genuine memory, the brain’s neural mechanism underlying the recall of the memory is the same,” said Susumu Tonegawa, a professor of biology and neuroscience and senior author of a paper.

In the first step, scientists needed to show that activating specific groups of hippocampal cells in the brain is sufficient to produce and recall memories. To achieve that, Tonegawa’s lab turned to optogenetics, a new technology that allows cells to be selectively turned on or off using light.

First, the researchers placed the mice in a novel chamber, A, but did not deliver any shocks. As the mice explored this chamber, their memory cells were labeled with channelrhodopsin, a protein that activates neurons when stimulated by light. The next day, the mice were placed in a second, very different chamber, B. After a while, the mice were given a mild foot shock. At the same instant, the researchers used light to activate the cells encoding the memory of chamber A.

On the third day, the mice were placed back into chamber A, where they now froze in fear, even though they had never been shocked there. A false memory had been introduced: The mice feared the memory of chamber A because when the shock was given in chamber B, they were reliving the memory of being in chamber A.

Moreover, that false memory appeared to compete with a genuine memory of chamber B, the researchers found. These mice also froze when placed in chamber B, but not as much as mice that had received a shock in chamber B without having the chamber A memory activated.

“Compared to most studies that treat the brain as a black box while trying to access it from the outside in, this is like we are trying to study the brain from the inside out,” said Xu Liu, a co-author of the study. “The technology we developed for this study allows us to fine-dissect and even potentially tinker with the memory process by directly controlling the brain cells.”

The MIT team is now planning further studies of how memories can be distorted in the brain.

“Now that we can reactivate and change the contents of memories in the brain, we can begin asking questions that were once the realm of philosophy,” said Steve Ramirez co-author of the study. “Are there multiple conditions that lead to the formation of false memories? Can false memories for both pleasurable and aversive events be artificially created? What about false memories for more than just contexts — false memories for objects, food or other mice? These are the once seemingly sci-fi questions that can now be experimentally tackled in the lab.”

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid