Scientists successfully perform a ‘memory transplant’ between living organisms
- The Facts:
A few years ago researchers discovered that memory can be transferred between, in this case, snails. The research changed the standard theory of memory and thoughts about how the brain remembers.
- Reflect On:
How much do we have yet to discover? Are we even physical beings? Could memories be stored beyond the physical world or what we can perceive with our senses? Can our we change our biology with our thoughts, feelings and emotions?
Animal testing is extremely heartbreaking. All beings in my opinion, are intelligent, emotional, and have the ability to feel deeply. All life on this planet is so similar in so many ways. These days, living life forms are bred for experimentation and consumption, this not only harms the being in what some would perceive as an extreme act of cruelty, but in many cases it’s harming the integrity of our planet when it comes to environmental issues and human health as well. This is why I am always very conflicted when presenting information that’s discovered through some type of ‘testing’ that’s done on another being. There are other ways scientists can conduct studies without the use of live life forms.
The last time I was conflicted about sharing this type of information was when scientists injected aluminum into animals, mimicking the childhood vaccine schedule, to see what the difference between injected and ingested aluminum was and where it ends up in the body. You can read more about that topic here.
Theodora Capaldo is president of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society. Founded in 1895, NEAVS is a Boston-based, national animal advocacy organization dedicated to ending the use of animals in research, testing and science education. Through research, outreach, education, legislation, and policy change, NEAVS advocates for replacing animals with modern alternatives that are ethically, humanely and scientifically superior. It’s one of many organizations bringing alternatives to light. It’s a big time bioethics issue, and I just wanted to mention this before getting into the subject matter at hand.
What Happened: This may be old information to some, but I recently came across it. In 2018 a team of researchers successfully transplanted memories in snails by transferring a form of genetic information called RNA from one snail into another. The snails were trained to develop a response to a mild electric shock to their tails, after these shocks were administered the snails’ defensive withdrawal reflex – where the snails contract or curl up to protect themselves from harm – became more pronounced. Yes, again, this is extremely cruel, the thought of inflicting any type of pain or fear response in another living being is heartbreaking. But that’s just my opinion.
The snails exhibited a defensive contraction lasting about 50 seconds. The researchers extracted RNA from the nervous systems of the snails that had been shocked and injected the material into the snails that had not been shocked. RNA’s main role, from what we know (and there is a lot that we don’t know) is to serve as a messenger inside of cells, it carries protein-making instructions from DNA. When the RNA was injected into the unshocked snails, the snails also had the same type of response as shocked snails for an extended period of time after a soft touch, something they weren’t doing before. They were reacting to something that had never even happened to them. Control snails that received injections of RNA from snails that had not received shocks did not exhibit a response for as long.
It’s as if we transferred a memory. – Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology, Neurobiology at UCLA (source)
The researchers also showed that Aplysia sensory neurons in Petri dishes that had been shocked were more excitable if they were exposed to RNA from the shocked snails. Exposure to RNA from snails that had never been shocked did not cause the cells to become more excitable.
The results, said Glanzman, suggest that memories may be stored within the nucleus of neurons, where RNA is synthesized and can act on DNA to turn genes on and off. He said he thoughts memory storage involved these epigenetic changes – changes in the activity of genes and not in the DNA sequences that make up those genes – that are mediated by RNA (source)
It’s also interesting to note that Michael Levin at Tufts has replicated McConnell’s experiments on headless worms under more controlled settings.
Glanzman said one of McConnell’s students, Al Jacobson, demonstrated the transfer of memories between flatworms via RNA injections, coincidentally while an assistant professor at UCLA. The work was published in Nature in 1966 but Jacobsen never received tenure, perhaps because of doubts about his findings. The experiment was, however, replicated in rats shortly afterward. (source)
Steve Ramirez, a 24-year-old doctoral student at the time, placed the mouse in a small metal box with a black plastic floor. Instead of curiously sniffing around, though, the animal instantly froze in terror, recalling the experience of receiving a foot shock in that same box. It was a textbook fear response, and if anything, the mouse’s posture was more rigid than Ramirez had expected. Its memory of the trauma must have been quite vivid.
Which was amazing, because the memory was bogus: The mouse had never received an electric shock in that box. Rather, it was reacting to a false memory that Ramirez and his MIT colleague Xu Liu had planted in its brain. (source)
What Does This Tell Us? Can Living Organisms Transfer Memory? Yes, we already know that living organisms can transfer memory. For example, a Nature Neuroscience study published several years ago shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their children as well as their grandchildren. This study dealt with phobia and anxiety research, as the animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom. The researchers then looked at the mice’s sperm and found that the section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was much more active in the sperm. As a result, the offspring were “extremely sensitive” to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent despite never having experienced it in their lives. “The experience of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations,” the report concluded.
Research has since showed that ‘memories’ and behaviours may actually be passed down 14 generations.
This is very important, and it suggests that a number of ‘memories’ can be passed down from our previous generations, including fear, anxiety, trauma, perhaps susceptibility to substances like alcohol for example, and much more. This opens up a wide plethora of discussions when it comes to human behaviour in general.
What’s more important to recognize is that what’s encoded into our DNA and into our genes also has the ability to be changed using the power of our own mind. There is a lot of evidence emerging suggesting that thoughts, feelings and emotions can change our DNA. This also corroborates with the research posted above given the fact that emotions, like fear, are used. So my question is, what happens when the organism overcomes that fear, and does not react in the same way? What happens when it makes a conscious choice to perceive events in a different manner?
Imagine what love, peace and other “positive” emotions can do. If we can code fear, anxiety and trauma into our DNA and pass them on, can an organsm change that by changing themselves within and training themselves to experience more “joyful” type of experiences and/or mind/heart state? Scientists have shown how the feeling of gratitude, for example, can literally change the structure of the human brain.
According to the HeartMath Institute,
The power of intentional thoughts and emotions goes beyond theory at the HeartMath Institute. In a study, researchers have tested this idea and proven its veracity.
HeartMath researchers have gone so far as to show that physical aspects of DNA strands could be influenced by human intention. The article, Modulation of DNA Conformation by Heart-Focused Intention – McCraty, Atkinson, Tomasino, 2003 – describes experiments that achieved such results.
For example, an individual holding three DNA samples was directed to generate heart coherence – a beneficial state of mental, emotional and physical balance and harmony – with the aid of a HeartMath technique that utilizes heart breathing and intentional positive emotions. The individual succeeded, as instructed, to intentionally and simultaneously unwind two of the DNA samples to different extents and leave the third unchanged.
“The results provide experimental evidence to support the hypothesis that aspects of the DNA molecule can be altered through intentionality,” the article states. “The data indicate that when individuals are in a heart-focused, loving state and in a more coherent mode of physiological functioning, they have a greater ability to alter the conformation of DNA.
“Individuals capable of generating high ratios of heart coherence were able to alter DNA conformation according to their intention. … Control group participants showed low ratios of heart coherence and were unable to intentionally alter the conformation of DNA.”
As far as memory goes, perhaps they are not even completely a product of our physical make-up? Who is to say that human consciousness, for example, resides in the brain? Perhaps there is a non-physical aspect, or a place we cannot perceive with our senses where memories and experiences are stored. After all, memories themselves, despite having physical characteristics as exemplified in this study, are in a sense themself non physical things. DNA has also been shown to have some non-physical aspects, you can read about one of many examples here.
The mind-body connection is also gaining traction, As Garth Cook from Scientific American points out:
A growing body of scientific research suggests that our mind can play an important role in healing our body — or in staying healthy in the first place. . . There are now several lines of research suggesting that our mental perception of the world constantly informs and guides our immune system in a way that makes us better able to respond to future threats. That was a sort of ‘aha’ moment for me — where the idea of an entwined mind and body suddenly made more scientific sense than an ephemeral consciousness that’s somehow separated from our physical selves.
The mind body connection suggests that we can change our biology through belief, which suggests we can break the cycle of ‘negative’ aspects we’ve inherited through epigenetics. These types of interventions require a shift in human consciousness, a shift in perception.
Suggested reading: The Biology of Belief.
When it comes to learning about the mind-body connection and its relationship to our health, it can be difficult to choose a starting place amongst the vast and growing body of research; one of the best places to start, however, is the placebo effect, which demonstrates that the mind can create physiological changes in the body. Neuroscientist Fabrizio Benedetti explains:
There isn’t just one placebo effect, but many. Placebo painkillers can trigger the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. Patients with Parkinson’s disease respond to placebos with a flood of dopamine. Fake oxygen, given to someone at altitude, has been shown to cut levels of neurotransmitters called prostaglandins (which dilate blood vessels, among other things, and are responsible for many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.
This goes to show that based on our thoughts alone and how we perceive our environment, we can alter our biology.
Then there is the the idea that thoughts and human intention can alter physical systems. If thoughts can alter physical systems imagine what they can do to our own biology as well as the body of another. For more information this, you can read the publication titled “Distant Healing Intention Therapies: An Overview of the Scientific Evidence.”
There are also multiple credible reports of mind/matter interaction beyond the quantum scale, where we already know it exists. You read about one example here.
The Takeaway: At the end of the day, the evidence showing that our ‘memories’ can be transferred down many generations is quite strong. What seems to be left out of the mainstream conversation is the importance of our perceptions. Our environment, yes, plays a key role in shaping our biology, but we can begin to counteract the effect of our environment, especially if it is ‘negative,’ by changing our perception of that environment. We are not bound by the genetics we inherit from our ancestors, we can actively change them. If mice are trained to fear the smell of a certain substance, for example, yes their offspring also fear it but they are not doomed to that destiny. The mouse that can expand its consciousness, think, and realize that there is no reason to be afraid is the one that then changes their DNA.
The science of human consciousness, also known as non material science, is advancing quite rapidly, and it goes to show that if more of us can operate, or at least make an effort to operate from a place of peace within we can truly make the world a better place as well as transform our biology. The term “change comes from within” comes in many forms. If you look at the modern history of the human race, although there are many beautiful aspects and memories, there is also a lot of trauma. As a human collective we still have a lot of work to do on ourselves, and I believe we are currently going through that process and I believe it’s being triggered by the fact that more people are having a big change in how they perceive their environment.