May 28, 2015:
MIT News: Scientists use optogenetics to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved.
Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light.
In a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers at MIT reveal that they were able to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved, using a technology known as optogenetics.
The finding answers a fiercely debated question in neuroscience as to the nature of amnesia, according to Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor in MIT’s Department of Biology and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, who directed the research by lead authors Tomas Ryan, Dheeraj Roy, and Michelle Pignatelli.
Neuroscience researchers have for many years debated whether retrograde amnesia — which follows traumatic injury, stress, or diseases such as Alzheimer’s — is caused by damage to specific brain cells, meaning a memory cannot be stored, or if access to that memory is somehow blocked, preventing its recall.