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Making mouse memories

Neuroscientists create a synthetic recollection of fear in rodents

In the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, scientists erase troubling memories from Jim Carrey’s head. In real life, scientists have done the opposite.

By reactivating certain nerve cells, researchers make artificial memories pop into mice’s heads. The results, published in the March 23 Science and online March 22 in Nature, offer a deeper understanding of how the brain creates and uses memories.

Much of what scientists know about how the brain remembers comes from studies that look for signs of natural memories in the brain or that disrupt memories. In the new work, memories are actually created, says neuroscientist Richard Morris of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “To my mind, this is an extremely important step forward,” he says.

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