By: Chris O'Shea
"Total Recall," the fantastic 1990 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger - NOT the recent remake starring Colin Farrell - is based around the idea of a company being able to implant fake memories into people's minds...Okay, so yes, the Colin Farrell remake from this summer is based on the same premise, but the Schwarzenegger version is the better of the two. Naturally, things go wrong and Arnold ends up kicking some ass, but the premise — that we can manufacture memories — just got one step closer to becoming, well, becoming a reality.
New research being published in the trade publication Nature Neuroscience shows that scientists have invented a way to create memories in brains for the first time. They aren't long, complex memories, but still — they have figured out a method for inducing a reality that never actually happened.
Memories are broken into two categories: Declarative and implicit. The former is for storing short term memories, like names, events and dates. The latter is for storing long term memories, like how to ride a bike or how to write. Ben Strowbridge, a professor of Neurosciences and Physiology/Biophysics and Robert Hyde, a PhD student, chose declarative memories to start. The two used a piece of mouse brain tissue to store several short, declarative memories. They based their ideas on previous research, which involved monkeys. "The type of activity we triggered in isolated brain sections was similar to what other researchers have demonstrated in monkeys taught to perform short-term memory tasks," Hyde explained to Science Daily.
Using the tissue, the duo showed that they could recreate the actions in our brains that form those short bursts of memory. When formed just right, the circuits in the mouse brain where short term memories are stored was activated, and thus kept the fake memory for about 10 seconds.
"This is the first time anyone has found a way to store information over seconds about both temporal sequences and stimulus patterns directly in brain tissue," Dr. Strowbridge told Science Daily. "This paves the way for future research to identify the specific brain circuits that allow us to form short-term memories."
It also paves the way for significant advances in the world of medicine. By understanding how memories are made, the doctor's could theoretically figure out how memories disappear, like in Alzheimer's or Parkinson's infected brains. The research could also open to the door to Total Recall like products. It sounds far-fetched, but it's true. One day, perhaps those involved in tragic accidents or traumatic events could "forget" the terrible images stamped in their brains by having a new one layered over it. And that's just the serious consequences. Want to travel to the China? Just have a company implant the memory, and bam! You did it. You would never know the difference. You would recall sights, sounds and smells. And let's not even get into the implications this kind of advancement would have on the world of adult entertainment. Yes, we had to go there, because you know damn well someone will. Probably sooner than later.
[Pic via Screengrab of above trailer]