Researchers devise a way to alter feelings attached to memories in mice while they sleep

March 10, 2015 by Bob Yirka, Medical Xpress report
Credit: Martha Sexton/public domain

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers in France has found a way to alter how a mouse "feels" about something it has remembered. In their paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the team describes how they recorded brain activity while mice visited new areas of their cage, then stimulated their brains while they slept in a way that made them favor the place they had visited and remembered.

Altering memories has always been the stuff of science fiction, but now it appears that there might be a way to cause someone to change how they feel about something by stimulating their brain while they sleep—if the findings by the team in France apply to .

To find out if they could change how a mouse "felt" about something it remembered, the researchers hooked up several of the rodents to brain scanners and then recorded brain activity as they scouted out their new cages. In particular, the researchers were keen on noting when certain cells, known as "place" cells (neurons that prior research has shown are involved in storing memories) fired in response to something that the mouse was seeing—in this case, a certain part of its cage. Other research has shown that certain dreams entail reviewing recent experiences, causing the same to become active again. Thus, later, after the were sleeping, the researchers monitored again, watching for when that same place cell that had become active earlier, became active again. When it did, the researchers sent a signal to a part of the mouse's brain associated with a reward. Upon awakening, the mice all went straight to the part of the cage that had been caused to be associated with a reward.

The researchers note that their experiments did not result in new memories being created, instead, they had changed the way that the mice responded to something they were remembering anyway. The team also noted that it was not clear if the same sort of experiment would work with people, but if so, it might be possible to use it to help people with PTSD. The researchers also do not know if their technique could be used to cause changes to associations with more complicated tasks, such as all the parts of an event, or when learning something new.

Explore further: Adding human glial cells to mice brains found to improve memory and cognition

More information: Explicit memory creation during sleep demonstrates a causal role of place cells in navigation, Nature Neuroscience (2015) DOI: 10.1038/nn.3970

Abstract
Hippocampal place cells assemblies are believed to support the cognitive map, and their reactivations during sleep are thought to be involved in spatial memory consolidation. By triggering intracranial rewarding stimulations by place cell spikes during sleep, we induced an explicit memory trace, leading to a goal-directed behavior toward the place field. This demonstrates that place cells' activity during sleep still conveys relevant spatial information and that this activity is functionally significant for navigation.

Related Stories

Adding human glial cells to mice brains found to improve memory and cognition

December 3, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at the University of Rochester in New York, has found that injecting glial cells into a mouse brain caused an improvement in both memory and cognition in the mouse. In their ...

Researchers find MS drug erases painful memories in mice

May 26, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at Virginia Commonwealth University in the U.S. has found that giving fingolimod, a drug normally used to treat Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in people, to mice, caused them to lose ...

Sleep-walking neurons: Brain's GPS never stops working-even during sleep

March 2, 2015
Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have found that navigational brain cells that help sense direction are as electrically active during deep sleep as they are during wake time—and have visual and vestibular cues ...

Scientists view effect of whisker tickling on mouse brains

February 2, 2015
Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have succeeded in peering into the brains of live mice with such precision that they were able to see how the position of specific proteins changed as memories were forged. The ...

Brain cells activated, reactivated in learning and memory

December 13, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Memories are made of this, the song says. Now neuroscientists have for the first time shown individual mouse brain cells being switched on during learning and later reactivated during memory recall. The ...

Manipulating memory with light

October 9, 2014
Just look into the light: not quite, but researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology have used light to erase specific memories in mice, and proved a basic theory of how different parts ...

Recommended for you

New technique helps uncover changes in ALS neurons

June 22, 2018
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered that some neurons affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) display hypo-excitability, using a new method to measure electrical activity in cells, according to a study ...

Broken shuttle may interfere with learning in major brain disorders

June 22, 2018
Unable to carry signals based on sights and sounds to the genes that record memories, a broken shuttle protein may hinder learning in patients with intellectual disability, schizophrenia, and autism.

Watching stem cells repair spinal cord in real time

June 22, 2018
Monash University researchers have restored movement and regenerated nerves using stem cells in zebra fish where the spinal cord is severely damaged.

Scientists discover fundamental rule of brain plasticity

June 21, 2018
Our brains are famously flexible, or "plastic," because neurons can do new things by forging new or stronger connections with other neurons. But if some connections strengthen, neuroscientists have reasoned, neurons must ...

Waking up is hard to do: Prefrontal cortex implicated in consciousness

June 21, 2018
Philosophers have pondered the nature of consciousness for thousands of years. In the 21st century, the debate over how the brain gives rise to our everyday experience continues to puzzle scientists. To help, researchers ...

Researchers find mechanism behind choosing alcohol over healthy rewards

June 21, 2018
A new study links molecular changes in the brain to behaviours that are central in addiction, such as choosing a drug over alternative rewards. The researchers have developed a method in which rats learn to get an alcohol ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 10, 2015
That is...pretty scary. I'm sure this will find its way into military training in no time. Up till now the suppression of the "don't kill" attitude has lead to 'imperfect' results, and many soldiers still aren't able to perform when called upon. With this? Killer machine on demand.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.