Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Scientists say they have transferred memories between sea slugs, via injection

David Glanzman RNA Moves a Memory From One Snail to Another
Johnnie Parks | 15 May, 2018, 19:44

Typically when we think of memory, the consensus is that memories are encoded in connections between our brain cells, but neurobiologist David Glanzman is of the opinion that RNA actually holds the key.

However, speaking with The Guardian, Tomás Ryan, a studier of memory at Trinity College Dublin, is not exactly convinced that Glanzman and his team have demonstrated an ability to transfer what we consider a personal memory.

David Glanzman tested the possibility that RNA from a trained California sea hare (Aplysia californica) can be used to create an engram - the elusive substrate of memory - in an untrained animal of the same species. The snails received five tail shocks, one every 20 minutes, and then five more 24 hours later. This caused them to become scared of being touched, they would contract their gills into a defensive action.

According to the BBC, the team observed that sensitized snails had a defensive contraction of up to 50 seconds, whereas the specimens that weren't familiar with the electric shock only contracted for about a second.

The researchers trained one cohort of the molluscs to exhibit a defensive reflex when their tails were stimulated by mild electric shocks.

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Next, the researchers extracted a type of genetic material known as RNA from the nervous systems of the snails that had received the shock (the sensitized group), as well as from snails that had not received any shocks (an unsensitized group). When tapping the snails, the ones in shock training contracted their bodies for nearly 50 seconds to defend themselves.

"This idea is radical and definitely challenges the field", said Li-Huei Tsai, a neuroscientist who directs the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As expected, the control group of snails did not display the lengthy contraction. Then underwent RNA Guinea rabbits with nerve nodes in the body other slugs, which is not affected by the shock. A group of untrained snails received RNA from the trained group and the second group received RNA from an untrained group. Researchers also know more about the biology of sensitization in marine snails than any other animal. Also, it's worth noting that the snails were not hurt during this experiment. See, some researchers think memories are stored in the synapses (the spaces between nerve cells). "Obviously further work needs to be carried out to determine whether these changes are robust and what are the underlying mechanisms", said Prof Seralynne Vann, who studies memory at Cardiff University. But despite the vast difference, the researchers said the cells of marine snails are still similar to those of humans, which makes this discovery that much more significant.

In the future, Glanzman said, it is possible that RNA can be used to awaken and restore memories that have gone dormant in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

Glanzman and his colleagues published research in 2014 suggesting that lost memories could potentially be restored based on this concept.

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