Medical

Snails' trace: scientists transfer memories between molluscs

Snails' trace: scientists transfer memories between molluscs

Speaking of what this means, Glanzman said: "What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the U.S.". Those that had not been given the shocks contracted for only about one second.

"So, these snails are alarmed and release ink, but they aren't physically damaged by the shocks", he explained. After these shocks were administered. the snail's defensive withdrawal reflex - where the snails contract in order to protect themselves from harm. But the ones injected with RNA from the trained snails? This research could lead to new ways to lessen the trauma of painful memories with RNA and to restore lost memories.

According to the researchers, the experiments show how essential parts of the memory trace, or engram, that gives rise to sea hare sensitisation are held in RNA, rather than in the connectivity of brain cells as traditional neuroscience dictates. When the researchers subsequently tapped the snails, they found those that had been given the shocks displayed a defensive contraction that lasted an average of 50 seconds, a simple type of learning known as "sensitization". After around 24 hours the snails had developed an instinctual reaction to recoil when being tapped on the tail.

Transhumanists prophesise a future where our memories can be uploaded to the cloud which can then be transferred into a robotic body to live forever. Snails in the control group, which biologists did not cause sensitisation, duration of the reaction to the current was one second.

More studies will have to show if this experiment can work in humans.

Scientists have long believed memories were stored in synapses.




UCLA Professor David Glanzman holding a marine snail.

Next, the researchers added RNA to Petri dishes containing neurons extracted from different snails that did not receive shocks.

In a study published today in the journal eNeuro, the UCLA team argues that these results refute the general consensus that long-term memory is stored in the brain synapses that connect cerebral cells.

The trained RNA also increased the excitability of cultured sensory neurons, obtained from untrained animals, which control this reflex all of which raises the possibility that RNA could be used to modify memory in other organisms, including us.

Glanzman said the next step in this research is to transfer RNA in more complex animals, like mice.

Glanzman says that in his next experiments he will attempt to identify the RNAs involved, and he has an idea for the mechanism, too. Seralynne Vann from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom made an interesting point about the chances of applying a similar technique in the study of human memory. "But if we're right, we're just at the beginning of understanding how memory works".