Mice implanted with false memories by neuroscientists

Neuroscientists from United States and Japan were successful in showing that they can implant false memories in the brains of genetically modified mice. Scientists at the Riken-M.I.T Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that they have created a false memory in mice that provide ample proof of knowing about false memory formation. False memories in human beings are a major problem occurring in people by remembering experiences or situations that had never happened. False memories create hindrances with witness statements during court trials.

It is usually observed that defendants have often been convicted with witness statements in courts of law. They have often been convicted of offences based on eyewitnesses’ testimony only to have convictions later overturned when DNA or some other corroborating evidence in brought to hear. The false or mistaken memories are common in life and researchers had found it relatively easy to generate false memories of words, images in human subjects. However, there is still a mystery about what goes on in the brain when mistaken memories are formed.

In order to study how false memories might form in human brain, Susumu Tonagawa –a neurologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his team encoded the memories in mice brains by manipulating individual neurons. The results of their research are described in the latest edition of the Journal Science. In their work, Tonagawa’s team used the technique known as optogenetics that allows the fine control of individual cells. They engineered the brain cells in the mouse hippocampus, a part of the brain that is known to have a role in forming memories to express the gene for protein called channelrhodospin.

When cells that contain channelrhodopsin are exposed to blue light, they became activated. The researchers modified the hippocampus cells for the purpose of channelrhodospin protein that would be produced in whichever brain cells the mouse was using to encode memory engrams. The experiment with numerous variations carried on mice was followed up for three successive days that showed mice acting on a false memory of electric shock that they remembered being shocked in first environment or day something that never happened. The mouse model created by MIT team will help scientists in asking and delving on even more complex questions about the memories in people. It is believed that as the mechanisms of memory formation are almost equal in mice and humans, it would help scientists in associating what would happen to human minds with bad or good high variance ongoing events.

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