Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

The researchers first moved the memory of one living being to another

The researchers first moved the memory of one living being to another

This caused them to become scared of being touched, they would contract their gills into a defensive action.

Transhumanists prophesise a future where our memories can be uploaded to the cloud which can then be transferred into a robotic body to live forever.

As it turned out, the RNA samples retained the memory of the electric shock, causing the untrained snails to exhibit a defense mechanism that lasted nearly as long as that of the donor snails.

But when the RNA molecules were transplanted from the trained snailed to the untrained one, they exhibited the same defensive response when shocked.

He said that if the memories were held in the synapses that the experiment would not have been able to work.

To understand what was happening in their snails, the researchers first extracted all the RNA from the brain cells of trained snails, and injected it into new snails.

"It's interesting, but I don't think they've transferred a memory", Tomás Ryan, an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin who researches memory, tells the Guardian's Sample. In the 1940s, Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb proposed memories are made in the connections between neurons, called synapses, and stored as those connections grow stronger and more abundant.

Researchers say that his experiment shows how essential parts of the memory trace or engram can be.

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Yes, sea snails may have 20,000 neurons - a paltry sum compared to humans' 100 billion.

Biologists in the United States managed to carry a certain nasty memory from one sea snail to another, thus creating an artificial memory in the second. It turned out that the transplantation of ribonucleic acids from sensitized snails contributed to the development of molluscs in the control group, the conditioned reflex of a duration of 40 seconds.

Speaking of what this means, Glanzman said: "What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the USA". They took this RNA and injected it into a third set of slugs that hadn't had to deal with any shocks or taps. Zapping the culture with a bit of current excited the sensory neurons much more than neurons treated with RNA from nonshocked snails.

The idea "seems quite radical as we don't have a specific mechanism for how it works in a non-synaptic manner", Bong-Kiun Kaang, a neuroscientist at Seoul National University who was not involved in the study, writes in an email to The Scientist.

Senior study author David Glanzman, from UCLA's Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, pointed out that the snails used in the experiment were not hurt in any way.

As Glanzman points out, if that theory were true, then the experiment wouldn't have succeeded.

Glanzman said the next step in this research is to transfer RNA in more complex animals, like mice. "But if we're right, we're just at the beginning of understanding how memory works".

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