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Artificial Memories are a Thing Now. Cue Total Recall Soundtrack.

Sparkly fun brain.

Sparkly fun brain.

Well, that didn’t take long. It was only 29 years ago that Total Recall hit theaters.

You’ll remember that in the movie Total Recall, Arnold has his whole life rewritten.  False memories are implanted in his brain and hijinks ensue. Sharon Stone turns out not to be the loving and wife he thought she was and then there’s the whole Mars thing. The original movie was awesome.  We didn’t see the remake.  Anyway, this week, scientists announced that they had successfully created an artificial memory.

Spoiler alert, it’s not a tropical vacation, and it’s in a mouse not a human.  Researchers spent time getting mice to associate a specific smell with a small shock to the foot.  Then they trained the mice to avoid the shock by going down a hallway that was infused with another scent.  The original scent (the foot shocker scent) is distinctive in that it activates a specific receptor on a unique type of olfactory nerve cell.

So far, so good and nothing that would raise an eyebrow with Skinner.  What comes next is, well, pretty amazing. It’s call optogenetics. It’s a process where light-sensitive proteins are used to stimulate specific neurons through surgically implanted optic fibers.  Using this process, researchers were able to give the mice memories of the smell and foot shock without them ever having stepped foot into the experiment.

When the mice with implanted memories were dropped into the experiment, they avoided the smell and the subsequent foot shock. We’re starting a new company called Rekall if anyone wants to get in on the ground floor.

Learn more about it here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-successful-artificial-memory-has-been-created