We may be closer to having the ability to erase our memories. For some of you, this may be the scariest scientific innovation that will only result in something disastrous as human nature evolves. For others, particularly those with numerous embarrassing incidents that occurred during their early twenties, this may be good news.
Similar to the neuralizer used by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in the ‘Men in Black’ franchise, neuroscientists from UC Davis have been able to erase some of the memories in mice by using beams of light.
When you recall a memory, you use two parts of the brain, the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus. When you learn something, you process the experience in your cortex. When you retrieve something you’ve learned, i.e. remembering, you use the hippocampus.
Lead researcher Brian Wiltgen and his team used genetically modified mice that had green-glowing nerve cells in their hippocampus. They tested to see if this nerve cells could be shut off by light, resulting in these mice not being able to recall a traumatizing memory.
When these mice were placed in a cage, they would receive a shock. As a result, every time the mice were placed in the cage, they would would freeze with fear, remembering that this location usually resulted in being shocked.
Because the mice were genetically modified, the scientists were able to locate the nerve cells that held that fearful memory by the cells’ green glow. They beamed light into those specific nerve cells using a fiber optic cable without affecting any other cells in the hippocampus.
As a result, when the mice were placed back in the cage, they no longer acted fearful because they didn’t have the memory of being shocked.
Pretty miraculous, don’t you think? It kind of reminds of that one movie… oh wait, now I can’t remember it.