Imagine you’re a mouse, and you’re freaking out right now because a researcher is putting you into a chamber. You distinctly remember feeling shocks to your tiny feet in that chamber.
What you don’t know — cue the creepy music — is that scientists have manipulated your memory by tinkering with your brain cells, giving you a false version of your own past. The truth is that, in this particular chamber, you were never actually shocked.
This sounds like a horror film, but it actually happened in a laboratory setting. And the research being done there could have implications for understanding memory in humans.
Scientists say they have, for the first time, generated a false memory in an animal by manipulating brain cells that encode that information.
More at MIT News, if you want a more scientific explanation of the study.
So here’s the question:
What false memories would you want to have implanted in your brain?
Imagine you couldn’t tell the difference between an implanted memory and a real one. You could “remember” doing something dangerous and exhilarating, like sky-diving or climbing Mount Everest, without incurring any of the danger. Or maybe implanted memories could be a confidence booster for, say, people with social anxieties: if you “remembered” doing something you were afraid of (but that isn’t actually physically dangerous), such as walking into a party full of people you didn’t know and having a good time, perhaps that would help you do similar things for real.
What do you think? And would you be leery of all of your memories if you knew it was possible that some of them weren’t real?
(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)