Implanting false memories into someone's brain has been the playground of many science fiction authors over the decades. Researchers in neuroscience at MIT, however, have developed a method that allows them to accomplish exactly that. So far only in mice.
The study found that whether real or false, the neurologic traces of the memory are identical.
"Whether it's a false or genuine memory, the brain's neural mechanism underlying the recall of the memory is the same," says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the July 25 edition of Science.
The study also showed more evidence that memories are retained in a network of neurons in the brain that form memory traces for everything that someone (or something with a brain) experiences.
"Now that we can reactivate and change the contents of memories in the brain, we can begin asking questions that were once the realm of philosophy," Ramirez, one of the lead authors of the paper says. "Are there multiple conditions that lead to the formation of false memories? Can false memories for both pleasurable and aversive events be artificially created? What about false memories for more than just contexts — false memories for objects, food or other mice? These are the once seemingly sci-fi questions that can now be experimentally tackled in the lab."
Have any of you ever read the short story, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Author Philip K. Dick? You may be more familiar with the film adaptation "Total Recall" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.