Researchers from the University of California at the Davis Center for Neuroscience and the department of psychiatry (UCD) have successfully used an optogenetic technique that uses light to erase memories.
Funding for this study was provided by Whitehall Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Nakajima Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Genetically modified mice were trained to develop memories of fear with the administering of electroshock which would cause of mice to freeze in place.
With the use of a fiber-optic cable, the researchers projected light into the mice’s brains and were able to shut off the nerve cells associated with the specific fear-memory.
In essence, the mice’s brains were scrubbed of those memories associated with the electroshocks.
Brian Wiltgen, neurobiological psychologist and co-author of the project, explained: “Neuroscientists have theorized that retrieving episodic memories — memories about specific places and events — involves coordinated activity between the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, a small structure deep in the brain. The theory is that learning involves processing in the cortex, and the hippocampus reproduces this pattern of activity during retrieval, allowing you to re-experience the event.”
Back in June of this year, researchers at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) successfully implanted, removed and re-implanted memories into laboratory rats.
The process called long-term potentiation (LTP) is believed by scientists to be the strengthening element between connections of neurons that oversees the formation of memories.
Going on this presumption, the scientists “modified the strength of synapses in a memory circuit”, producing a “memory” and then removing it from the neuronet.
Then the “memory” was restored by way of optogenetics, an experimental development of neurosciences using a laser.
The traditional electric shock was administered with optogenetic stimulation to jar neurons believed to be connected to auditory fear memories.
Researchers were able to literally turn those memories one and off by strengthening and weakening the synaptic connections.