Scientists successfully transfer memory from one snail to another

Glen Mclaughlin
May 16, 2018

In an experiment to test the idea, Glanzman implanted wires into the tails of California sea hares, or Aplysia californica, and gave them a series of electric shocks.

"It's interesting, but I don't think they've transferred a memory", Ryan said. Each neuron has several thousand synapses. But scientists have been studying sea snails for a long time, and they know an terrible lot about how the organisms learn.

Traditionally, long-term memories were thought to be stored at the brain's synapses, the junctions between nerve cells. This means that the snails usually contract in order to protect themselves.

Glanzman and his colleagues discovered that those receiving RNA from the trained snails exhibited the same reflex actions in response to tail simulation - even though they had not themselves been trained to do so.

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 scientists removed the RNA from the nervous systems of the snails and injected it into the marine snails that never showed sensitization ever before. It's emblematic of his perspective on how memory works. After around 24 hours the snails had developed an instinctual reaction to recoil when being tapped on the tail. They have been shown to be involved in long-term memory in snails, mice and rats, through their ability to influence chemical tags on DNA. The sea slugs used in the experiments have a much simple brain with only 10,000 neurons compared to the human brain that contains around 100 billion.

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Biologists in the USA managed to carry a certain nasty memory from one sea snail to another, thus creating an artificial memory in the second.

If transferring memories from a snail to another sounds weird, that's because it's the first experiment of its kind. But through repeated shocks, the researchers trained them to curl for longer, up to about 50 seconds. But scientists have gradually realized that there is more to RNA than playing messenger.

The idea "seems quite radical as we don't have a specific mechanism for how it works in a non-synaptic manner", Bong-Kiun Kaang, a neuroscientist at Seoul National University who was not involved in the study, writes in an email to The Scientist.

He also stressed that the snails did not get hurt.

As Glanzman points out, if that theory were true, then the experiment wouldn't have succeeded. The memory is not stored in the RNA itself, he speculates-instead, noncoding RNA produces epigenetic changes in the nucleus of neurons, thereby storing the memory.

But there are many different types of RNA, and Glanzman's team plans to do more research to figure out determine which types most directly impact memory. Glanzman and his colleagues' work arrives at what might be a pivotal moment in our understanding of memory.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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