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Scientists Have Transferred A Memory From One Snail To Another

15 May 2018

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".

Biologists from the University of California have successfully transferred a memory from one snail to another. Biologists believe that the researchers might have transferred only response and not memory.

Traditionally, long-term memories were thought to be stored at the brain's synapses, the junctions between nerve cells. Seralynne Vann from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom made an interesting point about the chances of applying a similar technique in the study of human memory.

Several years ago, though, he and his colleagues began replicating memory-erasing research done in rodents in California sea hares (Aplysia californica), a type of marine snail also called a sea slug. "Obviously further work needs to be carried out to determine whether these changes are robust and what are the underlying mechanisms", said Prof Seralynne Vann, who studies memory at Cardiff University.

"It was completely arbitrary which synaptic connections got erased", Glanzman says.

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Scientists have long believed memories were stored in synapses. (Every neuron has a few thousand neurotransmitters.) Glanzman holds an alternate view, trusting that recollections are put away in the core of neurons. He picked Aplysia because it has been a longtime model organism for memory studies. Their nervous systems comprise about 20,000 neurons, and the cells are some of the biggest and easily identifiable among nerve cells in all animals.

The snails were trained to develop a defensive reaction.

The RNA in the trained snail was used to create an engram - the elusive substrate of memory - by sensitising them with tail simulation that triggers an involuntary defensive reflex.

The experiment revealed that the recipients of the "memory transplant" contracted for about 40 seconds when tapped, suggesting that the RNA injections had transferred the memory of the electric shock to the unsensitized snails.

DNA methylation appeared to be essential for the transfer of the memory among snails.

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In the experiment's next step, the researchers gauged the withdrawal reflex by tapping both snails that had been trained, or sensitized, in this way and a control group that didn't receive the shock treatment. Including RNA from a marine snail that was not given the tail stuns did not deliver this expanded edginess in tactile neurons.

They then tapped the snails on the tail and watched as they behaved just like the snails that had been shocked. Zapping the culture with a bit of current excited the sensory neurons much more than neurons treated with RNA from nonshocked snails.

They then added RNA from trained and untrained snails to these dishes to observe the effect on the neurons.

"In a field like this which is so full of dogma, where we are waiting for people to retire so we can move on, we need as many new ideas as possible", he said.

In a statement for The Guardian, Glanzman commented on the nature of the experiment, noting that the type of memories that were transplanted from one snail to another was crucial to the success of the procedure. According to the researchers, the results show that memories are stored in the nuclei of neurons, where specific genes are activated and synthesizes corresponding ribonucleic acid.

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Scientists Have Transferred A Memory From One Snail To Another