Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu | TEDxBoston
Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu shoot laser beams into the brains of living mice to activate and manipulate their memories. In a funny and — perhaps — unnerving talk from TEDxBoston, they explain the fundamental principles behind their experiments and broach the big questions that future advancements in this line of research may force us to answer.
When we close our eyes and think back to our childhood, to our first kiss, or to this morning’s breakfast, our brains perform the remarkable task of mental time travel and thereby enrich our lives with memories. How does neural machinery give rise to something as seemingly ephemeral as memory? Recently, Hollywood inspired our imaginations by proposing that memories could be artificially triggered (think Total Recall), erased (think Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), or even implanted (think Inception). Now, neuroscience has plucked these ideas from the tree of science fiction and grounded them in experimental reality. The catch: our subjects are the movie stars of the laboratory setting–rodents. This talk will introduce how revolutionary techniques from our lab have made it possible to isolate and manipulate specific memories at the level of single brain cells with just flickers of light, as well as the societal ramifications of doing so.