Feeds

Boffins 'write directly to memory' of living brains

Implant false memories by 'seizing control of circuits'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

An alliance of boffins from Oxford University and Virginia, America say they have developed a technique for "writing directly to memory" in a living brain, "seizing control of brain circuits" to create a memory of an experience which had never actually happened.

Thus far, according to the research, the technique works reliably only on flies.

"Flies have the ability to learn, but the circuits that instruct memory formation were unknown," says Oxford insect-brain expert Gero Miesenböck. "We were able to pin the essential component down to 12 cells. It's really remarkable resolution."

The boffins were able to map the hapless dipterines' brains using a technique invented by themselves called "optogenetics". In optogenetics, "a simple flash of light is used to release caged-molecules present in selective neurons that then stimulate the activity of those neurons", so allowing one to find out what exactly those neurons do.

Having mapped the circuitry of the fly brain using tailored light flashes, the scientists found that they were able to specifically stimulate the magic twelve neurons to "give the flies the memory of an unpleasant event that never occurred". Experimental insects, given the brain-programming treatment, could be taught to fear and avoid specific odours - just as one might teach them by giving electric shocks, but without actually shocking them. The scientists describe this as "writing directly to memory".

Miesenböck says that traditionally, research on the human brain has involved monitoring neural activity and attempting to work out its relationship with what's going on in the user's mind in terms of perceptions, actions and understanding. This is, of course, notoriously difficult.

"It's more powerful to seize control of the relevant brain circuits and produce these states directly," states the brain-brainbox, worryingly.

The proper scientific writeup is published in the learned boffinry journal Cell, here (subscription). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.