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Science & Technology

Scientists achieve 'memory transplant' in snails

By T.K. Randall
May 15, 2018 · Comment icon 6 comments



Where exactly are memories stored ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Grzegorz Polak
In a potentially groundbreaking experiment, memories were successfully transferred from one snail to another.
The study, which was published recently in the journal eNeuro, involved transferring a form of genetic information known as RNA (ribonucleic acid) from the nervous system of one snail to that of another.

The experiment sought to learn more about how memory exists within living organisms.

Before the transfer took place, the first group of snails were sensitized using electric shocks to exhibit a certain defensive reaction. After the transfer, the recipient snails began to exhibit the same defensive reaction as though it was them that had been trained in the first place.
"These are marine snails and when they are alarmed they release a beautiful purple ink to hide themselves from predators," said study co-author Prof David Glanzman.

"So these snails are alarmed and release ink, but they aren't physically damaged by the shocks."

Previous studies had suggested that long-term memories are stored in the brain's synapses, however the results of this experiment seem to have called this idea in to question.

"If memories were stored at synapses, there is no way our experiment would have worked," said Glanzman.

Source: BBC News | Comments (6)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Carlos Allende 5 years ago
Sacre bleu!
Comment icon #2 Posted by CloudSix 5 years ago
But can't it be that the slugs who received RNA reacted in the way they did because they already experienced touching when they had the RNA transplated in the first place?
Comment icon #3 Posted by bison 5 years ago
RNA is already known to be able to transfer genetic information from one place to another within a living organism. It doesn't seem too surprising that it might also be capable of storing very simple acquired 'memories', like those described in the linked article. It still seems likely that more complex memories are retained in the neuronal synapses, as physiologist believe. 
Comment icon #4 Posted by pallidin 5 years ago
So, RNA (as opposed to DNA) might be responsible for what we commonly think of as "instinct"? I can believe that, because "instinct"  must have some clear biological mechanism, and RNA seems able.
Comment icon #5 Posted by paperdyer 5 years ago
Didn't someone do this with mice a number of years ago?  Maybe I'm just remembering a SciFi flim.  So the Snails/Slugs were "trained"  Can I train the scientists in the same manor that don't have any children, and see how the kids react later?
Comment icon #6 Posted by Calibeliever 5 years ago
Makes me think of the Bene Gesserit in Dune. 


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