Whose shell is this? Neuroscientists selectively wipe specific snail memories

mindwipe snail neuroscience 11413271 l
Johan Swanepoel/123RF
“It’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but with snails” sounds like a desperate Friday afternoon pitch meeting at Pixar, where everyone’s a bit tired and just wants to get home for the weekend.

In fact, it describes actual work being carried out by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and Montreal’s McGill University.

For those who haven’t seen it, Eternal Sunshine tells the story of an estranged couple who use mind-wiping technology to have their memories of one another erased after they’ve broken up. Similarly — albeit without the relationship part — Columbia and McGill researchers have figured out how to selectively wipe some memories belonging to a certain type of marine snail, while leaving others intact.

They believe the research could make it possible to one day develop drugs that can “delete” certain traumatic memories without negatively impacting memories of other past events.

To carry out their targeted memory erasure, the researchers blocked certain molecules associated with an enzyme called Protein Kinase M (PKM), which is a crucial part of retaining long-term memories. Their work is described in a paper published in the journal Current Biology.

While it’s so far only been demonstrated on snails, they believe the work represents a valuable insight into the way that memories are laid down, and that its findings could be extrapolated to humans as well. That’s in part due to the fact that the PKM-protecting protein KIBRA is expressed in humans, and that mutations of this gene have been shown to result in intellectual disability.

“What makes the results reported in the paper promising is that the molecules we examined are expressed in mouse and man, and have been found to participate in long-term memory and long-term synaptic plasticity,” Samuel Schacher, a professor of neuroscience in the department of psychiatry at Columbia, told Digital Trends. “Homologous forms of the PKMs, and KIBRA in particular, are expressed in man. In elderly people with Alzheimer’s and old-age forms of dementia, the expression of KIBRA is compromised. This provides additional impetus to explore the panoply of different molecules contributing to the maintenance of different forms of synaptic plasticity and memory. Once the catalog of molecules is available, the design of specific drugs to affect the function of specific molecules can be examined in more ‘advanced’ animal models, and hopefully designed for use in humans.”

Proper regulation to ensure such drugs aren’t abused could make the results another smart tool in the arsenal to help improve life for people suffering from anxieties from traumatic memories. Even more traumatic — if you can believe such a thing exists — than breaking up with Jim Carrey or a blue-haired Kate Winslet.

Emerging Tech

Battery-free biosensor patch measures your health by drinking your sweat

Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a soft skin patch that’s able to wirelessly gather data about the body by testing sweat components. Here's why it could be so useful.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.
Smart Home

With focus on interoperability, is Nevo Butler a smarter home hub?

Universal Electronics is the latest company getting into the smart home market, announcing at CES 2019 that it intends to market the Nevo Butler, a new smart home hub with onboard A.I. and voice control technology.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Emerging Tech

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Deals

Smart luggage does it all with wireless charger, built-in scale, GPS tracking

The SkyValet smart luggage, currently being funded on Kickstarter, offers solutions to many common travel struggles. With SkyValet, you no longer need separate portable chargers, a scale to weigh your bag, a lock, or a tracking device. It's…
Emerging Tech

The CRISPR baby saga continues as China confirms second gene-edited pregnancy

China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a second woman has become pregnant as part of a controversial experiment to create the world’s first genetically edited babies.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk offers to help dig CERN’s new particle collider tunnel

CERN plans to put the Large Hadron Collider to shame with its proposed much larger Future Circular Collider -- and Elon Musk wants to help. Because, you know, he's not busy enough.