Monday, October 19, 2009
Scientists Use Precise Flashes of Light to Implant False Memories in Fly Brains
Friday, October 16, 2009 - 11:35 in Biology & Nature
Neuroscientists have already spent the better part of a decade manipulating animal minds by using light signals to trigger genetically encoded switches. But a new study has now directly reprogrammed flies to fear and avoid certain smells, and all without the usual Pavlovian shock treatments. The technique supposedly permits "writing directly to memory," and allowed one scientist to enthuse about being able to "seize control of the relevant brain circuits" for producing all sorts of mental states and behavior. Researchers have discovered 12 specific brain cells that they can stimulate to implant the false memories of events that never occurred -- except in the mind, of course. This represents just one of the latest steps in the relatively new field of optogenetics, where scientists encode genetic switches inside certain cells and trigger the switches using tailored flashes of light. The genetic switches are made from eye cells...