Blog-Inception Exists: Implanting Memories in Your Brain

Even if you never saw the movie Inception, you may have seen some other work of “fiction” that involves someone having false memories implanted into his or her brain.

Until recently, this was thought to just be science fiction – the stuff of re-run Star Trekepisodes.

However, if you stop and think about it for a moment, you will realize that false memories creep into our brains all the time. You are sure that your friend Robert was at your daughter’s 3rd birthday party… or was it your son’s kindergarten graduation?

You remember when you saw Rachel at the convention 2 years ago, or was it Jennifer? False memories are an odd phenomenon, and scientists have been hard at work trying to explain them.

At MIT, a top research university for cognitive sciences, researchers delved into what makes a false memory in the brain.

What better way to find out than to try to implant false memories into lab rats! The rats were placed in a cage and were allowed to run around freely. However, one area of the cage contained a device that delivered an electric shock, one that was painful enough to make the rats want to avoid it.

However, the scientists were able to alter this memory in the brains of the rats, making them “remember” that they were shocked in a totally different part of the room.

The basics of memory creation and retention are the same in rats as they are in humans, so this was applicable to human research as well. Apparently, when a memory forms, it develops in a certain group of brain cells. Applying a stimulus to those same cells later can recall the memory.

The rats were tricked into thinking they were shocked in one area of the room, but in fact that shock never happened. The ability to create false memories may be related to our innate creativity, whereby we can think about situations that also never happened – yet!

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