'Memory transplant' achieved in snails

BBC News | 5/14/2018 | Staff
Mireille (Posted by) Level 3
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Memory transfer has been at the heart of science fiction for decades, but it's becoming more like science fact.

A team successfully transplanted memories by transferring a form of genetic information called RNA from one snail into another.

Snails - Reaction

The snails were trained to develop a defensive reaction.

When the RNA was inserted into snails that had not undergone this process, they behaved just as if they had been sensitised.

Research - Journal - ENeuro - Clues - Search

The research, published in the journal eNeuro, could provide new clues in the search for the physical basis of memory.

RNA stands for ribonucleic acid; it's a large molecule involved in various essential roles within biological organisms - including the assembly of proteins and the way that genes are expressed more generally.

Scientists - Shocks - Tails - Species - Marine

The scientists gave mild electric shocks to the tails of a species of marine snail called Aplysia californica. After these shocks were administered. the snail's defensive withdrawal reflex - where the snails contract in order to protect themselves from harm.

When the researchers subsequently tapped the snails, they found those that had been given the shocks displayed a defensive contraction lasting about 50 seconds, while those that had not received the shocks contracted for only about one second.

Snails - Stimulus

The shocked snails had been "sensitised" to the stimulus.

Scientists extracted RNA from the nervous systems of the snails that received the shocks and injected it into a small number of marine snails that had not been sensitised in this way.

Snails - RNA - Animals - Tail - Shocks

The non-sensitised snails injected with the RNA from the shocked animals behaved as if they had themselves received the tail shocks, displaying a defensive contraction of about 40 seconds.

They saw a similar effect when they did the same thing to sensory nerve cells being studied in petri dishes.

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