MIT Neuroscientists Can Implant Fake Memories into the Brain
2013-08-01 0:00

By Susanne Posel | Occupy Corporatism

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) have developed a technique to implant false memories into the minds of laboratory rats.

Steven Ramirez, lead author of the study from MIT identified brain cells associated with specific memories and used a technique to alter the rat’s memory once it was isolated.

In principle, this experiment could be recreated on human subjects and have a similar level of success.

Ramirez hopes that this study would lay a foundation of future research that could become a therapy for emotionally disturbed individuals, treat those with emotional problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which involves the recollection of “unwanted memories”.

In the laboratory, Ramirez’ team used optogenetics which utilizes light to turn on or off brain cells with an optical fiber that is shown directly into the hippocampus (the region of the brain that controls the formation of new memories).

Using a virus to infect regions of the brain where those neurons in the hippocampus control the production of new memories. This particular virus will alter the neuron’s DNA structure to produce a sensitivity to light which allows scientists to manipulate them with the use of the optical fiber light apparatus.

According to the study: “Memories can be unreliable. We created a false memory in mice by optogenetically manipulating memory engram–bearing cells in the hippocampus. Dentate gyrus (DG) or CA1 neurons activated by exposure to a particular context were labeled with channelrhodopsin-2. These neurons were later optically reactivated during fear conditioning in a different context. The DG experimental group showed increased freezing in the original context, in which a foot shock was never delivered. The recall of this false memory was context-specific, activated similar downstream regions engaged during natural fear memory recall, and was also capable of driving an active fear response. Our data demonstrate that it is possible to generate an internally represented and behaviorally expressed fear memory via artificial means.”

Theoretically, the brain’s creation of real memories would be the same process as false ones. Further research would explain how to apply these findings to already established memory manipulation techniques.

In 2009, researchers were able to show that false memories about childhood events that never really happened were just as influential as those memories of real events. Instead of thinking of our memory systems as video recording equipment, researchers showed that this complex neural network can be manipulated which poses a danger when conceptualizing how a person can recover from “forgotten” memories.


Read the full article at:

"Karim Nader is a professor at McGill University in the department of Psychology. As a neuroscientist he works to understand what neurobiological processes are involved in acquiring and storing memories, especially relating to fear, in order to use the study of memory reconsolidation to treat anxiety disorders. Dr. Nader made a breakthrough in the field in 1999, when he first revived and tested the obscure theory that memories do not necessarily remain stable..."

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