Most amazing news of all time this week! MIT scientists have figured out how to implant memories in mice! So far, they’ve managed to make a mouse think it had a bad experience somewhere it’s never been before (“The tacos here are awful!” “Mark, we’ve never been to this restaurant.”), but they’re headed for incepting good memories next.

Allow me to quote at length from the Post’s article on the subject, because this really is the greatest development since sliced bread, or peanut butter and chocolate, or slipping behind Anthony Weiner and taking the camera away from him.

“If mice had Hollywood, this would be ‘Inception’ for them,” said one of the lead researchers, MIT neuroscientist Steve Ramirez, whose study was published online Thursday in the journal Science.

Ramirez and his colleagues tagged brain cells associated with a specific memory and then tweaked that memory to make the mouse believe something had happened when it hadn’t.
… The first step in the mouse experiment took place last year when Ramirez and his colleagues isolated an individual memory in a mouse’s brain by tagging the brain cells associated with it and inducing recall of the memory at will by forcing those neurons to fire with light. In this new study, they artificially stimulated neurons to make associations between events and environments that had no ties in reality and, in essence, implanted a new, false memory.

They used a technique called optogenetics, which uses light to turn on and off activity of individual brain cells in a living animal. An optical fiber feeds light into the mouse’s hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays a prominent role in forming new memories…

Because he finds implanting fear “kind of depressing,” Ramirez next wants to try to implant pleasurable memories in mice, such as thoughts about rodents of the opposite sex.

Mice have been living in the Matrix for some time now, experiencing things usually reserved for a vaguely stunned-looking Keanu Reeves.

Still, this worries me a little. I know one of our hobbies as a species is Baffling and Traumatizing Mice. But have we pictured the consequences? What if the mice allow their dream-selves to be hit by a train? What if …


Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.