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Genetic markers. Scientists in Israel have made a significant discovery: memories, it turns out, leave a clear and unique genetic mark on the brain. And, according to the researchers, these genetic markers could potentially be used as a portal to memories after people die.
”Black Mirror.” Safe to say, the technology may lead to scenarios similar to those portrayed in “Black Mirror,” as investigators will be potentially be able to record — and playback — the memories of suspected criminals. Pretty crazy, huh?
Murder victims.What’s more, the technology could even lead to a point in time in which authorities are able to read — and replay — memories of deceased murder victims. By doing this, police will be able to help piece together the events leading up to their death.
Fascinating proposal. Unsurprisingly, scientists beyond Israel are intrigued by the idea. “It’s a fascinating proposal,” Clea Warburton at the University of Bristol told New Scientist. “You would have to get in there extremely quickly, as proteins start to degrade within minutes of death.”
Information. Warburton went on to highlight the amount of information the technology could potentially offer authorities. “It probably wouldn’t give you more information than a good forensic scientist could, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with a film about this,” she said.
The researchers behind the discovery. The fascinating discovery was made by researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “The scientists wanted to know how brains store memories in new connections between neurons,” according to The Daily Mail. “It’s known that brains do this using new proteins, which are controlled by genes.”
The experiment. In the study, scientists used the brains of mice to find that different experiences create distinct changes in gene activity. In order to make this discovery, the scientists subjected the creatures to a number of positive and negative episodes.
The experiment. When it came to the negative experiences, the scientists made the mice ill, electrocuted them, and gave them cocaine, according to The Daily Mail. When it came to the positive, the researchers gave them a treat.
The experiment. After about an hour, the mice were euthanized. The researchers then looked at which genes were triggered in seven areas of the brain that are known to be used in memory formation, according to The Daily Mail.
The experiment. Some experiences triggered a homogenous reaction to others, resulting in significantly similar gene expressions. “Researchers looking at the brains were able to tell which specimens had been in which test group just by looking at the relative gene expression,” according to The Daily Mail. “It was so clear-cut that they were more than 90 per cent accurate.”
Findings. In the end, it was discovered that animals store good and bad memories differently. That said, the way the memories are stored have general similarities. Seemingly, this information can be used to understand the nature of formative occurrences in the life of an animal— in this case, a mouse.
Findings. “It’s very nuanced – we can separate out a wide variety of different experiences,” Dr. Ami Citri of the Hebrew University told New Scientist. “Each memory that’s being encoded has a unique input in the brain in terms of the genes switched on to encode it.”
Findings. Additionally, the scientists found that about an hour after the memory has occurred is the peak moment for gene activity in the brain. “Although this research was successful in the dead mice, the researchers hope to apply the technique to living animals and, eventually, humans,” The Daily Mail reports.
Reaction. Unsurprisingly, the study’s results have been met with a mixed reaction. Over on The Daily Mail, one user questioned the technology, writing: “Keep in mind, they are talking about the ACCUMULATIVE effects of memories, NOT the individual memories.”
Reaction. Meanwhile, another said: “Won’t be possible for a very long time each person has a learned encoder that is unique to them. So a quantum decoder will be needed. It takes babies about 2 years to develop the encoding format. Everybody runs similar hardware but is running their own custom OS.”