Total Recall: Scientists implant memories in mice — are humans next?

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False memories of events that never happened have been implanted into the brains of mice in research that could pave the way for memory implant technology like that seen in the movie Total Recall.

Japanese and American neuroscientists, working at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have successfully planted false memories in the brains of mice, according to research published in the journal Science. 

They also found that many of the traces of the implanted memories detected by scientists in the mice’s brains are indistinguishable from those of authentic memories of real events.

“Whether it’s a false or genuine memory, the brain’s neural mechanism underlying the recall of the memory is the same,” Susumu Tonegawa, one of the study’s authors and the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at MIT said in a press release.

The movie Total Recall begins with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger believes he is a construction worker going for a memory implant “holiday” — paying for the recollection of a vacation to be implanted is cheaper than the real thing.

When the procedure goes wrong he finds he is actually someone else: His whole life is a false memory implant; and he’s really a secret agent.

In the research, Tonagawa’s team used a technique known as optogenetics, which allows the fine control of individual brain cells by genetic manipulation.

The scientists engineered mouse cells in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, believed to be the place where memories are formed. The engineered cells produce a protein called channelrhodopsin which activates the neurological functions of brain cells when exposed to blue light.


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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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