Laser light rewrites memories in mice | Science News

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Laser light rewrites memories in mice

Nerve cells in the hippocampus help the brain modify recollections

2:16pm, August 27, 2014

ALTERED   Mice’s bad memories turned into good ones and vice versa with a flash of light. The switch occurred when nerve cells (red) storing the memory were activated while a mouse experienced something new. The black region (center) shows the location of the light-delivering optical fiber.

With a burst of light, scientists can change good mouse memories into bad ones, and bad ones into good. The results, published August 27 in Nature, underscore how memories are not written in stone, and bring scientists closer to understanding how nerve cells in the brain create and store memories.

The study provides a “much more precise handle on some of the steps of memory formation than we’ve had before,” says neuroscientist Richard Morris of the University of Edinburgh. One day, such knowledge may lead to treatments for people who struggle with unwanted negative memories.

The results are the latest in the effort to manipulate mouse memories with optogenetics, a technique that uses light to control specific nerve cells in the brain. In earlier experiments, scientists made mice afraid of a harmless room, essentially layering fearful memories onto previously neutral experiences (

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