Altering Memories

Are you haunted by the past?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science, asking…

Remember your high school days? That time you threw up in front of your crush? Want to erase those embarrassing memories?

Meet Briana Chen from Columbia University and colleagues from Boston University. They tried to suppress unpleasant memories… in mice!

They gave mild foot shocks to the mice to instill fear. Mice freeze when afraid, so the team used their freezing behavior to assess when they were scared. This let them identify brain cells involved in the formation of fear memories. These cells are part of the hippocampus, a tiny structure in the brain.

Next they shot laser light at these brain cells to trigger memories of being shocked. And? Depending on where they shot the lasers, the outcomes were completely different! Activating the BOTTOM of the hippocampus caused mice to re-live the foot shocks. Stimulating the TOP, however, SUPPRESSED their fear memories.

These results can help scientists better understand the process of memory formation and retrieval.

And perhaps inspire a movie sequel….The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MOUSEY mind!