By Bridget Hennessy
Is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind becoming a reality? Scientists at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology have found that memories in mice can be erased using light, reminiscent of the 2004 movie that featured memory deletion as a way to cope with heartbreak.
The neuroscientists first modified the nerve cells in mice to fluoresce green and express a protein that can be shut off by light when activated. It was found that by putting mice in a cage, shocking them, removing them from the cage, and then reintroducing them to that environment, a fear response would be initiated upon their return to the cage.
The mice were demonstrating memory recall by becoming fearful in the cage, which activated the nerve cells recalling the memory. The scientists were able to follow the fluoresced nerve cells activated from the memory retrieval to the hippocampus and switch them off with light. The unpleasant memories in the mice were completely lost through this process, and the mice could reenter the cage with only inquisitiveness, which was their reaction when introduced to the cage the first time.
Additionally, it was found that turning off other cells besides nerve cells in the hippocampus does not affect memory retrieval, and the role of the amygdala to attach emotion to recollections was also reinforced. Though this discovery will not expand into the mayhem in the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, its information is already leading to memory prosthesis, or memory implantation, in mice.
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