UCLA biologists 'transfer' a memory

UCLA biologists 'transfer' a memory

American scientists from the University of California was the first to carry out the transplantation of consciousness among living beings.

But there are many different types of RNA, and Glanzman's team plans to do more research to figure out determine which types most directly impact memory. But scientists have been studying sea snails for a long time, and they know an terrible lot about how the organisms learn. As a result, researchers used RNA, which is part of the epigenetic modification and part of the process of forming long-term memory.

Experts noted that the experiment is important to science, despite the fact that it was not quite a full transfer of memory.

When the RNA was inserted into snails that had not undergone this process, they behaved just as if they had been sensitised. This isn't as hard as it sounds - they simply applied a mild, but still unpleasant, electric shock to the tails of a sea snail called Aplysia californica. After around 24 hours the snails had developed an instinctual reaction to recoil when being tapped on the tail.

"So, these RNAs that are produced are not only a by-product of the learning process, but are actually capable of driving changes in a completely naïve animal", said Jason Newbern, a developmental neuroscientist at Arizona State University.

Next, researchers extracted RNA from the trained and untrained snails.

What happened next was unbelievable.

A second, untrained, group of snails only retreated for 1 second upon receiving a tap. In the snail's gut, for example, are specific sensory and motor neurons that control the withdrawal of a fleshy, spout-like organ on the snail's back called a siphon and the contraction of a caterpillar-looking gill, which the animal uses to breathe.

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It was "as though we had transferred the memory", study co-author and UCLA professor David Glanzman said, the BBC reported.

WIKIMEDIA, GENNY ANDERSONResearchers have transferred a memory from one snail to another via RNA, they report today (May 14) in eNeuro.

They then added RNA from trained and untrained snails to these dishes to observe the effect on the neurons. The untrained snails that receive RNA from untrained donors showed no defensive response.

It's now widely accepted that memory storage is enabled by modifications to the synapses - the structures in the brain that transfer signals between the neurons. Another camp believed memories were stored in the nuclei of neurons.

"If memories were stored at synapses, there is no way our experiment would have worked", he said.

Of course, we'll need further research to confirm this possibility. "This work tells me that maybe the most basic behavioural responses involve some kind of switch in the animal and there is something in the soup that Glanzman extracts that is hitting that switch". They had, in essence, transferred the fear of being shocked.

But if Glanzman is right, his discovery could be a game-changer for those whose lives are negatively impacted by memory. That could lead to new ways for people with early-stage Alzheimer's to regain some of what they lost, or novel treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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