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Biotech Science

Scientists Write Memories Directly Into Fly Brains 137

TheClockworkSoul writes "Researchers at the University of Oxford have devised a way to write memories onto the brains of flies, revealing which brain cells are involved in making bad memories. The researchers said that in flies, just 12 brain cells were responsible for what is known as 'associative learning.' They modified these neurons by adding receptors for ATP, so that the cells activate in the presence of the chemical, but since ATP isn't usually found floating around a fly's brain, the flies generally behave just like any other fly. Most interestingly, however, is that the scientists then injected ATP into the flies' brains, in a form that was locked inside a light-sensitive chemical cage. When they shined a laser on the fly brains, the ATP was released, and the 'associative learning' cells were activated. The laser flash was paired with an odor, effectively giving the fly a memory of a bad experience with the odor that it never actually had, such that it then avoided the odor in later experiments. The researchers describe their findings in the journal Cell."
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Scientists Write Memories Directly Into Fly Brains

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  • by mhwombat ( 1616301 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @10:50PM (#29775305)

    Doesn't having your "this is a bad experience" receptors activated count as a bad experience? I don't mean the whole brain-and-laser unpleasantness, I mean having negative-association cells firing in your brain at all. It might not just count as a bad association later, it might be pretty unpleasant now. In which case it's not a fake memory, it's a real memory.

    For flies maybe this question has no meaning... maybe flies aren't conscious. If they did this to a higher animal (I have a horrible suspicion they will) it would be a question to ask. But a good question for this experiment would be: when they fire those brain cells, do the flies try to avoid what's going on immediately?

  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:07PM (#29775369) Homepage Journal
    In the novel (not the movie)Hannibal, Lecter considers using psychotherapy/hypnosis/drugs to transfer his sister's memories into Clarice.

    Also, Clarice and Hannibal elope and flee the country and they also fuck. But you won't see that ending in the movie ;)
  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:40PM (#29775479) Journal

    Is there any morally correct application for 'writing' false memories into a brain?

    How about treating PTSD?

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by talcite ( 1258586 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:44PM (#29775487)

    Is there any morally correct application for 'writing' false memories into a brain?

    Identifying the areas responsible for trauma and bad memories can be useful for treatment of patients who have experienced things like car crashes. It can help by reducing the effects associated with these memories.
    The thing about research is that lots of times the applications are not immediately obvious. Academia does research all the time on subjects that people don't have uses for yet. You're right in pointing out the possible negative side effects of this knowledge though. It's something that is very often unavoidable in research. A good example of this would be nuclear fission and it's range of uses.

  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday October 16, 2009 @11:56PM (#29775519) Homepage Journal
    If I could replace those years at school with a few minutes of some guy shining a laser directly into my brain, I'd do so in a heartbeat.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Coraon ( 1080675 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @12:17AM (#29775587)
    How about the ability to teach someone something almost instantly. For example, imagine bing able to give someone a university degrees worth of knowledge and then have them spend the time in school to see how they apply it. Or eventually being able to have yourself cloned and then when your near death be downloaded into your new body. No more pesky death to worry about.
  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @12:50AM (#29775723) Homepage Journal
    Short answer: Hannibal wants to fuck his sister and Clarice wants to fuck her daddy, but that's hidden under the romanticism of transference and psychotherapy and hypnosis and whatnot.

    You want explicit? Earlier in the book about the pedophile Mason Verger's [] sodomizing little kids (including his own sister) with candy bars. He calls it "taking the chocolate". His sister gets her revenge by stuffing his pet eel into his throat after electro-ejaculating him with a cattle prod to collect his semen in a condom so her lesbian partner can have a heir the Verger estate. Fascinating, if unbelievable. And no, you won't see that stuff in the movie, either ;)

    Note: the wikipedia link above is based off of the novel, not that pussy movie.
  • Re:Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Saturday October 17, 2009 @01:02AM (#29775773)
    Because that worked out so well in Clockwork Orange...

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.