Are Total Recall-Style Fake Memory Implants Coming Soon?

Those crazy kids at Gizmodo had a story today called “Scientists Invent Method to Create Memories in Brains” that got a lot of attention.

It sounds like a Philip K. Dick story. Sadly Gizmodo is about as reliable on science reporting as their corporate sibling Gawker is on politics, but the actual report is interesting, and even pretty hopeful.

The real paper is “Mnemonic Representations of Transient Stimuli and Temporal Sequences in Rodent Hippocampus In Vitro,” and it describes an interesting experiment: the researchers at Case Western, Ben W. Strowbridge and Robert A. Hyde, dissected out little fragments of a structure in a rat’s brain called the hippocampus, put them on glass, and stimulated them.  They were able to show that the little bits of hippocampus changed their activity in a way that was similar to what happened in rat hippocampus in live rats who were exposed to some simple stimulus.  (I picked up a nice picture fron an NIH publication that shows where the hippocampus is.)

Here's a picture for context: a rat's brain and a human brain, both with the hippocampus in brown.

In other words, instead of creating enduring memories in brains, the researchers created short term changing in little pieces of brain tissue in a  glass dish.  Not nearly as exciting, but still interesting.

You see, what they were doing is showing that they could get their little bits of rat brain to form very simple short-term memories, and they could tell that the memories were there in the rat brain tissue. They were actually seeing how the brain changed to form those memories, and that has some real potential.  The better this is understood, the more likely we will be able to understand the changes that destroy memory, say in Alzheimers.

It’s not Total Recall, but it’s pretty neat.

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