Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How to erase a memory –- and restore it: Researchers reactivate memories in rats

Date:
June 1, 2014
Source:
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences
Summary:
Researchers have erased and reactivated memories in rats, profoundly altering the animals’ reaction to past events. The study is the first to show the ability to selectively remove a memory and predictably reactivate it by stimulating nerves in the brain at frequencies that are known to weaken and strengthen the connections between nerve cells, called synapses.

Artist's rendering of nerve cells.
Credit: © fotoliaxrender / Fotolia

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have erased and reactivated memories in rats, profoundly altering the animals' reaction to past events.

Related Articles


The study, published in the June 1 advanced online issue of the journal Nature, is the first to show the ability to selectively remove a memory and predictably reactivate it by stimulating nerves in the brain at frequencies that are known to weaken and strengthen the connections between nerve cells, called synapses.

"We can form a memory, erase that memory and we can reactivate it, at will, by applying a stimulus that selectively strengthens or weakens synaptic connections," said Roberto Malinow, MD, PhD, professor of neurosciences and senior author of the study.

Scientists optically stimulated a group of nerves in a rat's brain that had been genetically modified to make them sensitive to light, and simultaneously delivered an electrical shock to the animal's foot. The rats soon learned to associate the optical nerve stimulation with pain and displayed fear behaviors when these nerves were stimulated.

Analyses showed chemical changes within the optically stimulated nerve synapses, indicative of synaptic strengthening.

In the next stage of the experiment, the research team demonstrated the ability to weaken this circuitry by stimulating the same nerves with a memory-erasing, low-frequency train of optical pulses. These rats subsequently no longer responded to the original nerve stimulation with fear, suggesting the pain-association memory had been erased.

In what may be the study's most startlingly discovery, scientists found they could re-activate the lost memory by re-stimulating the same nerves with a memory-forming, high-frequency train of optical pulses. These re-conditioned rats once again responded to the original stimulation with fear, even though they had not had their feet re-shocked.

"We can cause an animal to have fear and then not have fear and then to have fear again by stimulating the nerves at frequencies that strengthen or weaken the synapses," said Sadegh Nabavi, a postdoctoral researcher in the Malinow lab and the study's lead author.

In terms of potential clinical applications, Malinow, who holds the Shiley Endowed Chair in Alzheimer's Disease Research in Honor of Dr. Leon Thal, noted that the beta amyloid peptide that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease weakens synaptic connections in much the same way that low-frequency stimulation erased memories in the rats. "Since our work shows we can reverse the processes that weaken synapses, we could potentially counteract some of the beta amyloid's effects in Alzheimer's patients," he said.

Co-authors include Rocky Fox and Christophe Proulx, UCSD Department of Neurosciences; and John Lin and Roger Tsien, UCSD Department of Pharmacology.

This research was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health (grants MH049159 and NS27177) and Cure Alzheimer's Fund.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sadegh Nabavi, Rocky Fox, Christophe D. Proulx, John Y. Lin, Roger Y. Tsien and Roberto Malinow. Engineering a memory with LTD and LTP. Nature, 2014 DOI: 10.1038/nature13294

Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "How to erase a memory –- and restore it: Researchers reactivate memories in rats." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140601150633.htm>.
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. (2014, June 1). How to erase a memory –- and restore it: Researchers reactivate memories in rats. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140601150633.htm
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences. "How to erase a memory –- and restore it: Researchers reactivate memories in rats." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140601150633.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Shining a Light on Memory: It's All About Strengthened Connections Between Neurons

June 1, 2014 — Using a flash of light, scientists have inactivated and then reactivated a memory in genetically engineered rats. The study is the first cause-and-effect evidence that strengthened connections ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins