Saturday, 26 May, 2018


Snails swap memories in scientific breakthrough

RNA Moves a Memory From One Snail to Another UCLA biologists 'transfer' a memory
Patty Aguilar | 15 May, 2018, 13:17

In one of the most progressive memory studies to date, researchers from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) have managed to transfer memories between sea snails, ScienceDaily reports.

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

Experts noted that the experiment is important to science, despite the fact that it was not quite a full transfer of memory.

The UCLA professor of integrative biology holds a different view, believing that memories are stored in the nuclei of neurons. Experiments in the 1960s, however, suggested RNA could play a role in making memories, though the work was largely written off as irreproducible.

It was "as though we had transferred the memory", study co-author and UCLA professor David Glanzman said, the BBC reported. This research could lead to new ways to lessen the trauma of painful memories with RNA and to restore lost memories.

But Prof Glanzman said: "If memories were stored at synapses, there is no way our experiment would have worked".

To treat memory-related illnesses in humans, we've first got to understand how the brain stores memories in the first place.

Glanzman turned his attention to RNA because of those earlier hints it was related to memory, and also because of recent experiments suggesting long-term memory was stored in the cell bodies of neurons, not synapses.

The researchers studied a species of marine snail known as Aplysia. Like all mollusks, these snails have groups of neurons called ganglia, rather than brains.

The slugs have simple central nervous systems and large nerve cells that make experimental manipulation easier. The procedure sensitised the animals so that when they were prodded in a fleshy spout called a siphon, they contracted their gills in a robust defensive action. But through repeated shocks, the researchers trained them to curl for longer, up to about 50 seconds.

This idea is probably going to strike most of my colleagues as extremely improbable.

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. The snails had been "sensitised" to the shock.

Remarkably, the scientists found that the seven that received the RNA from snails that were given the shocks behaved as if they themselves had received the tail shocks: They displayed a defensive contraction that lasted an average of about 40 seconds. Curiously, the specialists found, including RNA from the snails that had been given stuns likewise created expanded volatility in tactile neurons in a Petri dish; it didn't do as such in engine neurons. But the ones injected with RNA from the trained snails?

At the point when a marine snail is given electric tail stuns, its tangible neurons turn out to be more edgy. Each neuron has several thousand synapses.

He also stressed that the snails did not get hurt: "These are marine snails and when they are alarmed they release a lovely purple ink to hide themselves from predators".

"What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the United States."

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