Medicine

Snails swap memories in scientific breakthrough

Snails swap memories in scientific breakthrough

Especially where your brain is concerned.

The researchers said that the cells and molecular processes in the marine snails are similar to those in humans, despite the fact that the snail has about 20,000 neurons in its central nervous system and humans are thought to have about 100 billion. They found that the shocked snail RNA made the in vitro sensory neurons more excitable, but the effect didn't carry across to motor neurons. Many marine organisms function the same way mammals do, except the processes that keep them alive are just way less complicated.

In a statement for The Guardian, Glanzman commented on the nature of the experiment, noting that the type of memories that were transplanted from one snail to another was crucial to the success of the procedure.

A team successfully transplanted memories by transferring a form of genetic information called RNA from one snail into another.

When touched lightly on the siphon, the neurons fire, retract the tissue, and contract the gill within the body cavity for a few seconds to protect it against attack.

In their experiments, the UCLA researchers trained snails to be more sensitive to perceived danger.

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Once this initial phase of the experiment was completed, the researchers extracted RNA from the sensitized sea hare snails and injected it into untrained specimens. Snails in the control group, which biologists did not cause sensitisation, duration of the reaction to the current was one second. Then underwent RNA Guinea rabbits with nerve nodes in the body other slugs, which is not affected by the shock. They held the pose for 40 seconds, as if they remembered how to respond to a stimulus, even though they had never encountered it before.

This is a big deal because it helps clear up a longstanding scientific debate. The team found that the snail synapses built to "store" a memory weren't necessarily the synapses that were removed from the neural circuits in the memory-erasing experiments.

Scientists have long believed memories were stored in synapses.

"What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the United States", said Glanzman, whose study appears in the journal eNeuro.

The team wanted to test whether they could transfer "memories" to make untrained snails react the same way as the trained ones. That could lead to new ways for people with early-stage Alzheimer's to regain some of what they lost, or novel treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These findings don't close the debate about where memories are stored, and they certainly don't mean that we can instantly restore detailed memories in humans.

The sea hare is a well understood model species in neurobiological studies, with a pedigree reaching back to Nobel laureate E. R. Kandel's research on learning and memory in the 1960s.