Recently, researchers have succeeded in implanting an event that has never happened into the brains of mice. The research also suggests that recollections and past memories can be inaccurate and distorted, an issue that has been raised many a time in court cases, says a report from the Telegraph.
Researchers used optogenetics
The experiment conducted by these researchers is mentioned in Journal Science. Researchers used optogenetics, a technique where genes of a protein that reacts to light is embedded into the DNA of mice. Through this technique, scientists succeeded in accessing cells in the hippocampus area of the brain, which assist in forming memories when exposed to light.
Mice were genetically modified by the researchers so that their brain cells started producing light sensitive chemicals while the new memory was created. To change the way in which brains form memory, researchers used flashes of light thus making mice believe they had experienced an event, which actually was not true.
A similar technology was used in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie to create a memory about spending a holiday in Mars.
Researchers are conducting an experiment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to find out how false memories are created. The memories are shelved in the brain, but chemical and physical changes in and between neurons are variously linked to objects, space and time.
Professor Susumu Tonegawa, senior researcher and neuroscientist at MIT, said that false memories are created in a similar way to that of real memory.
“Whether it’s a false or genuine memory, the brain’s neural mechanism underlying the recall of the memory is the same,” he said. He added that the imagination capacity of human beings is extreme. Similar to mice, humans can also imagine a false memory based on an event, which they can link to any past experience.
Research raises doubts on eyewitness testimonies
Researchers say that witnesses can also face similar things if they are questioned or are said to produce wrong statements. False-memory syndrome has become one of the major legal issues worldwide, due to which courts rely on forensic evidence rather than eyewitness testimonies.
Steve Ramirez, the lead author on the work, said: “Memory is not a carbon copy, but rather a reconstruction, of the world we’ve experienced.”
He added that now science has answers to questions like—is there more than one reason for the creation of false memories, and can memories for good, as well as unpleasant, events be created.