Japanese scientists have developed a method that allows you to manipulate memories. It is based on a neural-optical system.
A team of scientists from the University of Kyoto, led by Akihiro Goto, is responsible for the experiment. The study is still ongoing, but authors recently presented the first promising results in Science.
The developed technology is confusingly similar to the one that can be seen in the popular series “Men in Black”. Let us remind you that the film’s agents used a special device that erased memories with a flash of light. The Japanese research shows that light can be used to inactivate a protein involved in memory consolidation.
Memories are consolidated during sleep due to nervous activity, in a process called long-term synaptic enhancement (LTP). By examining the entire process, it is possible to determine the time and place of the formation of memories in the brain – points out Interesting Engineering.
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In the course of the experiments, Goto’s team inhibited the action of cophyllin, a protein essential for LTP. The scientists injected the brains of mice with an adenoviral (AAV) vector that releases reactive oxygen species. When exposed to light, they deactivate all nearby compounds, including cophylline.
The method can help with mental disorders
Experiments have shown that it is possible to erase memories in the hippocampus, where they are stored first. The researchers illuminated this area of the mice’s brain twice – first after they had learned a task and then while they were sleeping. It turned out that in this way the short-term memory was removed.
The task the rodents were to learn was to put them in a dark chamber that caused them stress. After irradiating the brains, the animals forgot about their previous experiences and were no longer stunned when they entered the chamber once again.
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Research co-author Yasunori Hayashi expressed the hope that the developed technology will allow the isolation of memory both temporally and spatially at the cellular level. He pointed out that synaptic abnormalities related to LTP affect memory and learning disorders – they occur, inter alia, in in Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. “We expect our method to lead to a range of treatments for mental disorders,” said Hayashi.