UCLA biologists 'transfer' a memory

David Glanzman

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. This led Glanzman and his team to the possibility that some aspects of long-term memory could be transferred via the molecule. Then, 24 hours later, the researchers repeated the process.

The researchers noted the snails given the shocks displayed a defensive contraction that lasted an average of 50 seconds (known as sensitization) while those that were not given the shocks contracted for only about one second.

A second, untrained, group of snails only retreated for 1 second upon receiving a tap. The seven snails reacted as though they had received the tail shocks by displaying a defensive contraction of about 40 seconds. Afterward, the untrained slugs showed the same defensive reflex.

Prof David Glanzman, one of the authors, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), said the result was "as though we transferred the memory". They then extracted RNA - an acid found in all living cells - from the snails' nervous systems and injected it into other snails that had not developed the reaction. Some dishes had RNA from marine snails that had been given electric tail shocks, and some dishes contained RNA from snails that had not been given shocks.

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. Zapping the culture with a bit of current excited the sensory neurons much more than neurons treated with RNA from nonshocked snails. The team found that the snail synapses built to "store" a memory weren't necessarily the synapses that were removed from the neural circuits in the memory-erasing experiments. But Glanzman believes that they're actually stored inside the neurons themselves - and his experiment demonstrates this possibility.

Trial on tap in Giants, Eli Manning memorabilia lawsuit
Inselberg says the helmets weren't game-used, and that emails show Manning engaged in a pattern of deceiving collectors.

Of course, we'll need further research to confirm this possibility.

The researchers said that the cells and molecular processes in the marine snails are similar to those in humans, despite the fact that the snail has about 20,000 neurons in its central nervous system and humans are thought to have about 100 billion.

But in a new study, researchers claim to have made headway in understanding the simplest kind of memory a mollusc might form, and, with a swift injection, managed to transfer such a memory from one sea snail to another.

But if Glanzman is right, his discovery could be a game-changer for those whose lives are negatively impacted by memory.

Professor Glanzman said in future it might be possible to awaken and restore memories that have gone dormant in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, or ameliorate the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

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