Scientists Give Mice Fake Memories

Study could help explain our own false memories
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 26, 2013 8:52 AM CDT
Scientists Give Mice Fake Memories

Congratulations, science: You have now advanced far enough to confuse mice. A team of researchers has managed to implant a false memory in mice, in an experiment that they hope will shed light on the unreliability of human memory. The mice were introduced into one environment and given enough time to form a memory of it. Then they were placed in a completely different environment, and given an electric shock, while scientists triggered brain cells associated with the first environment, the Guardian explains. (It has a much more technical description of the process, which involved a protein called channelrhodopsin.)

When the mice were returned to the first environment, they froze in fear, indicating that they "remembered" being shocked there, even though it never happened. "We call this 'incepting,'" says the lead researcher. The point is that both real and fake memories appear to be formed "based on very similar, almost identical, brain mechanisms," the researcher explains. (The Guardian specifically references false memories like alien abduction or faulty witness testimony.) "It is difficult for the false memory bearer to distinguish between them." (Click for another fascinating study involving mice.)

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