In a study further illustrating why the public doesn't trust scientists with messing around with their brains, a neuroscience group from MIT were able to not only plant false memories, but also reactivate these memories at a later time and in a specific context. Using optogenetics - the stimulation of cells genetically altered to be especially sensitive to light - the researchers were able to generate fear-conditioned memories in mice when the mice entered a previously explored location known to be safe. In other words, the investigators were doing what psychologists do best - messing with people's minds
However, besides its clear use for evil and obvious appeal to government and corporate leaders with a god complex, the experiment is a good example of the power of optogenetics, and makes significant headway in the search for the elusive engram - the neural signature of memories believed to be encoded primarily in the hippocampus, and particularly in the dentate gyrus and subfield CA1. Now, if they could find out how to erase those memories, that would be money. "Are you talking about that one time in second grade where you drank so much orange soda you peed your pants and I had to come pick you up from school, snookums?" Mom - GET OUT OF MY ROOM!
Kudos to Steve Ramirez and the Tonegawa lab, who are the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human beings I've ever known in my life.