"What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the United States", said Glanzman, whose study appears in the journal eNeuro. They bathed the untrained neurons in RNA from trained cells, then gave them a shock, and saw that they fired in the same way that trained neurons do.
A memory transplant procedure might sound like something out of a sci-fi movie. The paper might support hints from studies conducted decades ago that RNA was involved in memory. It has always been thought that memories are stored in the synapses in our brains with each neuron containing several thousand synapses. This produced "increased excitability" in the neurons, according to the UCLA statement, whereas RNA from un-shocked snails did not.
Once this initial phase of the experiment was completed, the researchers extracted RNA from the sensitized sea hare snails and injected it into untrained specimens.
The researchers trained one cohort of the molluscs to exhibit a defensive reflex when their tails were stimulated by mild electric shocks.
The RNA in the trained snail was used to create an engram - the elusive substrate of memory - by sensitising them with tail simulation that triggers an involuntary defensive reflex. Specialists claim that made them a discovery in the future will help restore memory in people who suffer from Alzheimer's disease and other memory disorders.More news: Kohli shares his thoughts on batting with De Villiers
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He also stressed that the snails did not get hurt: "These are marine snails and when they are alarmed they release a attractive purple ink to hide themselves from predators". In 2016, for example, the Austrian scientist Patrick C. Trettenbrein pointed out a number of problems with the synapse-memory theory-but noted that "we are now also still lacking a coherent alternative".
He said: "If memories were stored at synapses, there is no way our experiment would have worked". They displayed a defensive contraction that lasted for 40 seconds. They took this RNA and injected it into a third set of slugs that hadn't had to deal with any shocks or taps.
Glanzman and his colleagues were able to see the effect on an even more basic level in their bundle of snail neurons in a petri dish.
However UCLA's work seems to contradict this. RNA from shocked snails also enhanced a subset of synapses between sensory and motor neurons in vitro, suggesting it was indeed the RNA that transported the memory, Glanzman explains. Glanzman said about the results, "It's as if we transferred a memory". 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. It's emblematic of his perspective on how memory works.