Transplanting memory accomplished successfully in snails

Transplanting memory accomplished successfully in snails

Researchers have successfully transferred a sea snail's memory to another one by injecting RNA from a trained sea snail into an untrained one.

To treat memory-related illnesses in humans, we've first got to understand how the brain stores memories in the first place.

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. He and his team are trying to know more about the engram (physical trace of memory storage). They have been shown to be involved in long-term memory in snails, mice and rats, through their ability to influence chemical tags on DNA. While this component hasn't been yet discovered, the process includes epigenetic modification. So, Glanzman and his team researched if they can transfer long-term memory through the molecule.

During the experiment, researchers noted that neurons in a petri dish fired more if they received the genetic material of the shocked slugs than the material from the unshocked slugs.

The marine snails or Aplysia Californica were given minor electric shocks by the scientists only after proper administration of the shocks.

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To create a memory that they could transfer the team started by applying mild electric shocks to the tail of the snail. After these shocks were administered. the snail's defensive withdrawal reflex - where the snails contract in order to protect themselves from harm. When taping the snails, the experts noticed that those that had received a shock contracted for 50 seconds.

After sensitising the sea snails, Glanzman extracted RNA from the animals and injected it into other sea snails to see what happened. Like all mollusks, these snails have groups of neurons called ganglia, rather than brains. Sticking electrodes in the snail's tail and shocking it makes this defensive response last longer, tens of seconds, and sometimes up to nearly a minute.

Once the reflex action had been established in the trained snails, they were euthanised and their abdominal ganglia removed. Adding RNA from a marine snail that was not given the tail shocks did not produce this increased excitability in sensory neurons. This is a huge step towards understanding how memory is stored and works, even in people. Experiments in the 1960s, however, suggested RNA could play a role in making memories, though the work was largely written off as irreproducible.

Transhumanists prophesise a future where our memories can be uploaded to the cloud which can then be transferred into a robotic body to live forever. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues. He holds a B.A.in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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