Planting false memories may seem like a premise of a sci-fi film but researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have taken another step closer towards making it a reality after revealing that they were able to implant false memories in mice.
The researchers made use of a technique known as optogenetics through which they inserted a gene for a protein that is sensitive to light into the DNA of the mice.
The researchers were then able to turn the cells in the hippocampus area of the brain, which is linked with forming memories, on and off by exposing them to light. This allowed them to encode memory trace by linking the gene to another that is important for the formation of memories. The study has been published in the journal Science.
"Memory is not a carbon copy, but rather a reconstruction, of the world we've experienced. Now that we can reactivate and change the contents of memories in the brain, we can begin asking questions that were once the realm of philosophy. Are there multiple conditions that lead to the formation of false memories? Can false memories for both pleasurable and aversive events be artificially created? What about false memories for more than just contexts — false memories for objects, food or other mice? These are the once seemingly sci-fi questions that can now be experimentally tackled in the lab", lead researcher Steve Ramirez said.