Animal Gets Head Cut Off, Remembers Everything
Planarians mystify us with ability to regenerate body parts
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2014 6:00 PM CST
A planarian.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Ever heard of planarians? These inch-long worms are famous for their remarkable ability to regrow body parts that get cut off. Slice one worm into three parts—head, body, and tail—and each part will regrow the rest of the worm. From one planarian, you get three! How they do it we don't know, but two biologists at Tufts University conducted an experiment to test whether a decapitated planarian could retain its memories, NPR reports.

Knowing that planarians shy away from the light, Michael Levin and Tal Shomrat lured them into lit areas with tasty liver snacks until they got comfortable with light. Then the scientists cut off the planarians' heads. When each body grew back a head, lo and behold, the worms remembered that lit areas were safe and had good food. So how did the bodies regrow heads with that memory? "We have no idea," Levin told National Geographic. "What we do know is that memory can be stored outside the brain—presumably in other body cells," and memories "can get imprinted onto the new brain as it regenerates."

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Showing 3 of 21 comments
AEK
Jan 7, 2014 3:22 AM CST
Sorry, but I think that's pretty disgusting. Leading them to food and what they think is safety, just to mutilate them? Doesn't this experiment also prove they remember the decapitations? And they're WORMS--what possible human application can this have?
Mr_Joshua
Jan 6, 2014 1:19 PM CST
Not so hard to believe. Women often say we men think with our dicks. And you can call me.............Mr Joshua
Lefty_Libby
Jan 6, 2014 10:19 AM CST
I wouldn't want to remember being decapitated and cut into three parts. Good for the planaria. Yes, I remember torturing these microscopic creatures in HS. Shame on me.