MrSeb writes: "MIT researchers have shown, for the first time ever, that memories are stored in specific brain cells. By triggering a single neuron, the researchers were able to force the subject to recall a specific memory. By removing this neuron, the subject would lose that memory. To do this, the researchers used optogenetics, a bleeding edge sphere of science that involves the genetic manipulation of cells so that they’re sensitive to light. These modified cells are then triggered using lasers; you drill a hole through the subject’s skull and point the laser at a small cluster of neurons. Just to temper your excitement, we should note that MIT’s subjects in this case are mice — but it’s very, very likely that the human brain functions in the same way. To perform this experiment, though, MIT had to breed genetically engineered mice with optogenetic neurons — and we’re a long, long way off breeding humans with optogenetic brains. Still, the main significance here is that we finally have proof that memories are physical rather than conceptual. We now know that, as in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, specific memories could be erased. It also gives us further insight into degenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders, which are mostly caused by the (faulty) interaction of neurons. “The more we know about the moving pieces that make up our brains,” says Steve Ramirez, co-author of the paper. “The better equipped we are to figure out what happens when brain pieces break down.”"
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