Have you ever wanted to relive one of your most treasured memories? Not just think about the memory, but actually relive it? According to new research coming out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you can.
Neuroscientists at MIT have discovered that memories are physical and can be reactivated. This means that instead of just recalling a memory, scientists can now help you reconstruct them artificially by activating certain parts of your brain.
This reactivation theory isn’t new — it was just never proved before now. In an early 1900s experiment on epilepsy patients, neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield found that if he stimulated certain parts of the hippocampus — the part of the brain in charge of short and long-term memories — some of his patients would vividly recall past events.
Neuroscientists at MIT were able to test Penfield’s experiment further and prove his findings in a study conducted on lab mice. For this study, scientists first found the cells that became activated while a lab mouse was learning something. Then, they determined the genes that activated those cells. Finally, they paired those genes with another gene for a light-activated protein. After setting up this technique, the scientists were able to shine tiny pulses of light onto those neurons to activate the protein.
This process allowed the scientists to actually recreate the memory — artificially, that is.
As Steve Ramirez, co-author of the study, put it, “We wanted to artificially activate a memory without the usual required sensory experience, which provides experimental evidence that. . .even ephemeral phenomena, such as personal memories, reside in the physical machinery of the brain.”
Scientific jargon aside, this basically allows scientists to use light to replay moments in your mind.
Scientists are hopeful this technique could help in studying brain disorders. “The more we know about the moving pieces that make up our brains,” Ramirez says, “the better equipped we are to figure out what happens when brain pieces break down.”
What do you think of this new research? Would you like to relive a memory? Let us know in the comments.