An anonymous reader writes "According to new study published in Nature (abstract), MIT researchers have figured out how to trigger specific memories in rats by hitting certain neurons with a pulse of light. From the article: 'The researchers first identified a specific set of brain cells in the hippocampus that were active only when a mouse was learning about a new environment. They determined which genes were activated in those cells, and coupled them with the gene for channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), a light-activated protein used in optogenetics. ... The light-activated protein would only be expressed in the neurons involved in experiential learning — an ingenious way to allow for labeling of the physical network of neurons associated with a specific memory engram for a specific experience. Finally, the mice entered an environment and, after a few minutes of exploration, received a mild foot shock, learning to fear the particular environment in which the shock occurred. The brain cells activated during this fear conditioning became tagged with ChR2. Later, when exposed to triggering pulses of light in a completely different environment, the neurons involved in the fear memory switched on — and the mice quickly entered a defensive, immobile crouch.'"