Is This How "Total Recall" Starts? - Life Imitating Hollywood

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by tulianr, Jul 26, 2013.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    MIT scientists implant a false memory into a mouse’s brain
    By Meeri Kim, Published: July 25

    Scientists have successfully implanted a false memory into a mouse’s brain — a seemingly far-fetched idea reminiscent of a science fiction film.

    “If mice had Hollywood, this would be ‘Inception’ for them,” said one of the lead researchers, MIT neuroscientist Steve Ramirez, whose study was published online Thursday in the journal Science.

    Ramirez and his colleagues tagged brain cells associated with a specific memory and then tweaked that memory to make the mouse believe something had happened when it hadn’t.

    Although implanting a memory won’t happen anytime soon in people, in principle, it should be possible to isolate a human memory and activate it at will, scientists said.

    Researchers said the ability to implant a false memory was a scientific milestone; Kahana called it a “technical tour de force.” The study’s authors said this type of research could one day help treat some emotional problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which involves the intrusion of unwanted memories.

    The first step in the mouse experiment took place last year when Ramirez and his colleagues isolated an individual memory in a mouse’s brain by tagging the brain cells associated with it and inducing recall of the memory at will by forcing those neurons to fire with light.

    In this new study, they artificially stimulated neurons to make associations between events and environments that had no ties in reality and, in essence, implanted a new, false memory.
    MIT scientists implant a false memory into a mouse’s brain - The Washington Post
  2. Gunny Highway

    Gunny Highway Hard Work and Sacrifice blessed by God's Grace

    I read that article in our local paper and thought the same thing as the title of this thread - seriously ! Did anyone say " witness tampering " ? This is an entirely unwholesome road we have turned down with this IMHO
    Yard Dart and tulianr like this.
  3. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    Yeah, this is a scary path to start down. This article mentioned the problem with false memories:
    "Ramirez recounts a true story about an Australian psychologist who was arrested for a rape he did not commit. Physically, he fit the bill of the victim’s description, but he had a foolproof alibi. He was speaking on a live television show at the time of the rape — the same show, it turned out, the victim had been watching right before her attack. As a result, she described him as her attacker, even though it wasn’t possible."

    Being able to tweak a person's reality may seem like a good idea to these scientists, but I don't see it as a good thing, under any circumstances.
    Mountainman and kellory like this.
  4. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    eye witness testimony is unreliable enough right now.
    Mountainman likes this.
  5. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    Most memories aren't very accurate, anyway. Recalling a memory varies (or may vary) its outcome.
    (I'm kinda' science-geeky and pay attention to brain-related stories. I swear that I've heard/learned/read that somewhere).
  6. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    The scientists involved in the project mention this research as possibly useful in the future to help treat PTSD type emotional issues. That seems like some very shaky ground. Who knows if the "erased" memory will later resurface, and in what form? Someone who witnessed a horrific crime and had the memory erased might later come to believe they had committed the act themselves. There are too many unknowns to recklessly pursue this type of research.

    I agree with Tracy, in that our memories typically aren't very accurate anyway. Our own brain has difficulty in sorting out memories without any interference. Our society's experience with shrinks attempting to dig out buried or lost memories has been far from comforting. All too often, "memories" have been created for events that never transpired.

    I don't think there's any reason to fear this research in our lifetimes though. There's a big step between making a rat think he had been in a particular area of a maze before, and erasing or altering a complex human memory. The human brain does a pretty good job of helping most of us deal with uncomfortable memories anyway.
    Tracy likes this.
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