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Somewhere in the brain is a storage device for memories

New technology and new ideas spur the hunt for the physical basis of memory, the engram

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7:00am, January 24, 2018
brain illustration

TRACES OF MEMORY New technologies and new ideas have revived the hunt for the physical basis of memory, challenging existing notions of where memories are stored.

People tend to think of memories as deeply personal, ephemeral possessions — snippets of emotions, words, colors and smells stitched into our unique neural tapestries as life goes on. But a strange series of experiments conducted decades ago offered a different, more tangible perspective. The mind-bending results have gained unexpected support from recent studies.

In 1959, James Vernon McConnell, a psychologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, painstakingly trained small flatworms called planarians to associate a shock with a light. The worms remembered this lesson, later contracting their bodies in response to the light.

One weird and wonderful thing about planarians is that they can regenerate their bodies — including their brains. When the trained flatworms were cut in half, they regrew either a head or a tail, depending on which piece had been lost. Not surprisingly, worms that kept

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