By tweaking neurons in the brain, scientists have been able to restore memories in mice ... make it clear that the memories in trauma victims aren't lost at all, just hiding.
An amazing new finding in the scientific community has people buzzing: researchers in a recent study were able to restore the memories in mice who had suffered trauma during tests, potentially paving the way for future developments that could help brain trauma victims.
In a study published in the journal Science, researchers were able to tweak neurons in order to restore the memories, indicating that memories aren’t really lost in a traumatic incident, they simply are locked away deep in the brain, which has lost the ability to recover them, according to a Washington Post report. It’s a finding that could potentially result in amnesia cures, even if that is well down the road.
The scientists were able to use optogenetics to use an engineered virus that introduces a protein to neurons that are tied to those memories. Once those neurons receive the proteins, they become sensitive to blue light, allowing scientists to control them.
To determine this, they put mice through a traumatic incident — in this case, shocking them repeatedly in a shock chamber. They observed which neurons were stimulated, and then conducted the optogenetics process with a new batch of mice, which they traumatized as well, causing them to avoid the enclosure. Then, they gave the mice a drug that induced retrograde amnesia, causing them to “lose” their memories of the incident, and the mice stopped fearing the shock chamber. When they used the blue lights, however, the neurons were stimulated and the mice regained their fear of the enclosure.
It’s an exciting finding that could result in a big breakthrough in treating amnesia in those who have suffered traumatic injuries, but a cure isn’t right around the corner. The procedure is quite invasive and therefore has ethical questions, and there are also significant technical hurdles remaining. Still, it is a positive step in scientists’ understanding of the brain.