Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
According to The Guardian, scientists at MIT have successfully implanted mice with false memories by manipulating their neurons. The said reason for research is a greater understanding of how memories of things that never took place end up inside a human brain. The implications for having this knowledge and capability are of course two fold. Eventually, we might learn how and when witnesses’ memories are true or false using neural scanning technology. We might also one day learn enough to manipulate those neurons for clandestine intelligence operations or governments might frame political enemies.
“Humans are very imaginative animals,” said Tonagawa. “Independent of what is happening around you in the outside world, humans constantly have internal activity in the brain. So, just like our mouse, it is quite possible we can associate what we happen to have in our mind with bad or good high-variance ongoing events. In other words, there could be a false association of what you have in your mind rather than what is happening to you.”
Dr. Susumu Tonagawa used optogenics (optics) and (genetic engineering) to program the mice’s behavior. The procedure allows scientists to target and track neurons and their responses. The protein channelrhodopsin was genetically engineered to express in the mice’s hippocampus. The mice were placed into a first cage and explored their surroundings with artificial or modified protein production. They were placed in a second cage and given an electric shock which induced a fear response. Simultaneously, they used light to trigger the memories of the first cage and activating the GM proteins. When placed back in the first cage, although there was never a shock in the first cage or a reason to be afraid, the mice exhibited the fear response, associating their trauma to their first cage- thus an implanted false memory of the event and its surroundings. Such planting of false memories is called inception.
Any animals that experience trauma might be real or imagined depending on what is going inside the cerebral cortex and not simply the surrounding events. Damaged cells or a lack of certain protein expression and even genetics are ultimately responsible for what an individual believes happened or not.
While the current level of science for implanting memories is at its nascent stages, the success in mice breaks the theoretical barrier and entering the realm of brain hacking. Moreover, a DARPA team at MIT has successfully taken a cockroach and connected electrodes on its antennae, fooling it into thinking it has hit a wall and going in the other direction. Other cyborg bugs (cybugs) are planned. A Chilean research team reportedly used human brainwaves to move a cockroach’s leg.
The 1940s science fiction is finally coming alive and it is both incredible and troubling.
Dr. Tonagawa’s research sounds an alarm for the unreliability of witnesses known to psychologists and professional first responders for years. Yet what is the alternative to a witness system when everything in society can be staged or manipulated- from video footage, photos, voice to behavior and brains!
More likely the research will go into a continual pool of dual-use science and technology. They are effectively mind control experiments in the 21st century with the latest technologies of optical stimulation and genetic engineering, rather than drugs like LSD in the past.
The Guardian article can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2013/jul/25/false-memory-implanted-mouse-brain