Last year, MIT neuroscientists Xu Liu and Steve Ramirez manipulated the memory of a mouse. In a fascinating and mildly troubling breakthrough caused by a laser and the protein channelrhodopsin, they “activated” fear memories in a mouse. The impetus, says Ramirez, was the awful feeling of a break-up, the desire, Eternal Sunshine-style, to erase the […]Continue reading
Why you should listen
During his PhD, Xu Liu studied the mechanisms of learning and memory, using fruit flies as a model system. By changing the expression of certain genes in the fly brain, he generated smart flies that can learn many times faster than their peers. Using live imaging, he also detected learning-induced changes in the brain cells and observed memory formation inside the brain with light.
After graduation, he moved to MIT and joined Dr. Susumu Tonegawa's lab as a postdoctoral associate. He continued his pursuit of memory with light there. Instead of just watching memory formation, he developed a system in mice where one can not only identify and label cells in the brain for a particular memory, but also turn these cells on and off with light to activate this memory at will. This work was published in Science and has been covered by the media worldwide. Liu passed away in February 2015.
Xu Liu’s TED talk
Xu Liu on the TED Blog
Total Recall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Inception. In today’s talk, MIT neuroscientists Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu admit that their latest study — in which they located a specific memory in a mouse’s brain and designed a system to activate and deactivate it at will — might remind people of these movies. And there […]Continue reading