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Retrieving Lost Memories

March 28, 2016

In a mouse model of early Alzheimer’s disease, scientists used light to trigger memories that the mice had forgotten.


4693885525_d4c85b1494_b John O'Nolan CC BY 2.0

(John O’Nolan/CC BY 2.0, via flickr)


Recalling forgotten memories. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Cues such as odors and locations associated with past events can jog the memory. But in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, these cues may fail to retrieve new memories, according to MIT neuroscientist Susumu Tonegawa. His team reports in Nature that mice with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms forgot an unpleasant event several days afterwards, despite returning to the place where it occured. But the scientists used a technique called optogenetics to make the brain cells where the memory was stored sensitive to light, and then shined blue light directly on them.

SUSUMU TONEGAWA (RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics):

We reactivate the memory forming cells and that leads to memory recall.


Tonegawa says the procedure is currently too invasive to be used in Alzheimer’s patients, but hopes evolving technologies will one day enable similar therapies. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.