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Research in marine snails could lead to restoring memories and altering traumatic ones

Biologists report they have transferred a memory from one marine snail to another, creating an artificial memory by injecting RNA from one to another. The researchers gave mild electric shocks to the tails of a species of marine snail called Aplysia. The shocks enhance the snail's defensive withdrawal reflex, a response it displays for protection from potential harm. When the researchers subsequently tapped the snails, they found those that had been given the shocks displayed a defensive contraction that lasted an average of 50 seconds, a simple type of learning known as "sensitization." Those that had not been given the shocks contracted for only about one second. The life scientists extracted RNA from the nervous systems of marine snails that received tail shocks the day after a second series of shocks, and also from marine snails that did not receive any shocks. Then the RNA from the first (sensitized) group was injected into seven marine snails that had not received any shocks, and the RNA from the second group was injected into a control group of seven other snails that also had not received any shocks. Remarkably, the scientists found that the seven that received the RNA from snails that were given the shocks behaved as if they themselves had received the tail shocks. This research could lead to new ways to lessen the trauma of painful memories with RNA and to restore lost memories.

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