Thursday, 24 May, 2018

Scientists Have Transferred A Memory From One Snail To Another

RNA Moves a Memory From One Snail to Another 'Memory transplant' achieved in snails
Marlene Weaver | 15 May, 2018, 19:45

It was "as though we had transferred the memory", study co-author and UCLA professor David Glanzman said, the BBC reported. If confirmed in other species, the finding may lead to a shift in scientists' thinking about how memories are made-rather than cemented in nerve-cell connections, they may be spurred on by RNA-induced epigenetic changes.

The marine snails or Aplysia Californica were given minor electric shocks by the scientists only after proper administration of the shocks. The snails received five tail shocks, one every 20 minutes, and then five more 24 hours later.

Once the reflex action had been established in the trained snails, they were euthanised and their abdominal ganglia removed.

The next step was to extract RNA from the snails' nervous systems, but only from those that had received the shocks. The snails had been "sensitised" to the shock.

The second group then received the shocks and the snails contracted for only about two seconds.

"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."

As expected, the control group of snails did not display the lengthy contraction.

When the RNA was inserted into snails that had not undergone this process, they behaved just as if they had been sensitised. And, as a comparison, they took the RNA from the unsensitized snails and injected it into a control group of seven other snails that had also not received any shocks.

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Marine snails were used in the experiment because they are an excellent model for studying the brain and memory.

More tests in petri dishes showed that the RNA from trained snails showed that their sensory neurons were more excited than the ones of the untrained snails.

Glanzman said the snail memory transplant shows memories may not reside in synapses as previously thought. He said that if the memories were held in the synapses that the experiment would not have been able to work.

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.

Scientists know more about the cell biology of this simple form of learning in this animal than any other form of learning in any other organism, Glanzman said.

Researchers say the cells and molecular processes of snails are similar to that of humans. Scientists believe that in the future their method can be a tool to restore the memory of people with Alzheimer's disease.

eNeuro, the Society for Neuroscience's open-access journal launched in 2014, publishes rigorous neuroscience research with double-blind peer review that masks the identity of both the authors and reviewers, minimizing the potential for implicit biases.

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