A team of scientists from Kyoto University succeeded in what previously seemed possible only in films: for the first time, researchers were able to erase memories from the brain of a living being. The results of the experiment were published in Science.
Japanese scientists have used the technique of optogenetics, optical effects on the brain, to destroy a protein necessary for the contact between neurons – the synapse. It is through the synapse that the process of transfer of information from short-term memory to long-term memory occurs – consolidation. How and when exactly memories are formed in the brain depends on time and the specific groups of neurons involved in the process.
Scientists injected an adenovirus into the brain of a mouse that delivers a protein labeled with a fluorescent marker. They then applied optical stimulation to the proteins to release oxygen. With the help of this, scientists were able to locally affect parts of the brain during the period of information consolidation.
In the course of the experiment, the optical effect on the mouse brain was carried out twice: after the animal had learned a new task and the second time during sleep after learning. As a result, scientists recorded the loss of memories of the studied task, comparing the effect to a flash of light from a memory-erasing neutralizer in the Men in Black films.