Speed Reads

The future is now

Scientists took one snail's memory and put it in another snail's brain

Scientists recently transplanted one snail's memory into another snail's brain, making the second snail think it remembered something that never happened to it.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that they could extract a part of a snail's genetic code and inject it into a second snail, changing the way the second animal acted, in an eNeuro study that sounds straight out of Black Mirror: Snail Edition.

Sea snails apparently have great long-term memories, so UCLA researchers were able to quickly train them to react negatively after giving them a small electric shock. The unfortunate snails who were shocked retracted their siphons for much longer than the snails who were new to the lab. The snails that developed the reflex in response to the zaps had essentially formed a memory of the experience in their nervous systems.

That memory was transferred via RNA molecules to the new snails, who hadn't yet learned to retract their siphons in anticipation of more shocks. After researchers moved the genetic material from a trained snail to a naive snail, the unsuspecting snail neurons immediately reacted to the zaps like seasoned pros, as if they remembered dealing with them before. The study doesn't mean we're anywhere close to being able to pass memories around at will, but researchers told BBC it was a huge step towards understanding more about memory development.