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

RNA Moves a Memory From One Snail to Another

Scientists have successfully transferred a memory from one marine snail to another - but there's still a long way to go until you can pay someone to wipe unpleasant memories or implant new ones a la Total Recall, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The memory is not stored in the RNA itself, he speculates-instead, noncoding RNA produces epigenetic changes in the nucleus of neurons, thereby storing the memory.

David Glanzman is the leader of the team of researchers and a biologist at the University of California (Los Angeles).

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".

There are many kinds of RNA, and in future research, Glanzman wants to identify the types of RNA that can be used to transfer memories. The reaction they had amazed the entire team.

"So, these snails are alarmed and release ink, but they aren't physically damaged by the shocks", he explained.

The researchers gave mild electric shocks to the tails of a species of marine snail called Aplysia. He found the recipient sea snails became sensitised, suggesting the "memory" of the electrical shocks had been transplanted. On the other hand, those that did not receive shocks had a defensive contraction that lasted for only one second. Normally, these snails only contract for one second.

Scientists extracted RNA from the nervous systems of the snails that received the shocks and injected it into a small number of marine snails that had not been sensitised in this way.

This amplification was demonstrated by the fact that after the shocks were administered, the snails' defensive contractions lasted around 50 seconds on average when the scientists tapped their shells.

The breakthrough was achieved with California sea hare snails whereby one was trained to perform a certain action, while another was untrained. So, in a third test, he and his team removed sensory neurons from nonshocked snails, cultured the cells in a dish, and then exposed the cells to RNA from shocked snails.

Glanzman turned his attention to RNA because of those earlier hints it was related to memory, and also because of recent experiments suggesting long-term memory was stored in the cell bodies of neurons, not synapses.

"Engram" is the word used to denote the physical substrate of memory - the structure inside the brain that physically stores long term memories, broadly analogous to the way a hard-drive stores data on a computer.

The researchers see this result as a step towards alleviating the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer's or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues. He holds a Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



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