You may not carry your house on your back or release sulphuric acid, but you’ve got a lot more in common with a sea snail than you may think. Especially where your brain is concerned.
Yes, sea snails may have 20,000 neurons — a paltry sum compared to humans’ 100 billion. But scientists have been studying sea snails for a long time, and they know an awful lot about how the organisms learn. Many marine organisms function the same way mammals do, except the processes that keep them alive are just way less complicated. And sea snails are no exception — their nerves transmit impulses much the way ours do.
So, it’s impressive that researchers from UCLA were able to transfer memories of being shocked between marine snails. Even more impressive? That early research may someday pave the way for similar processes in humans.
In the study, published Monday in the journal eNeuro, snails in one group were trained to respond to a stimulus — in this case, a shock to the tail (animal lovers, don’t fear — the shock didn’t hurt the snails. It just triggered a defensive curl reflex, sort of like snatching your hand away from a hot stove). At first, the snails would only curl for a few seconds. But through repeated shocks, the researchers trained them to curl for longer, up to about 50 seconds.
Next, the team took some ribonucleic acid (RNA), which forms proteins based on cells’ DNA, from nerve tissue in the upper abdomen of trained snails and injected it into the untrained snails’ necks to get to their circulatory system. When they were shocked, the snails that weren’t injected with RNA curled for only a few seconds, the way all snails do when they haven’t been trained. But the ones injected with RNA from the trained snails? They held the pose for 40 seconds, as if they remembered how to respond to a stimulus, even though they had never encountered it before. The researchers also tested some of the same techniques on snail neurons in a petri dish.
This is a big deal because it helps clear up a longstanding scientific debate. See, some researchers think memories are stored in the synapses (the spaces between nerve cells). Another camp believed memories were stored in the nuclei of neurons. As study author David Glanzman told the BBC, “If memories were stored at synapses, there is no way our experiment would have worked.”
To treat memory-related illnesses in humans, we’ve first got to understand how the brain stores memories in the first place. The UCLA team suggests their research might one day allow us to, as the study states, “modify, enhance, or depress memories.” That could lead to new ways for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s to regain some of what they lost, or novel treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Let’s not get carried away, here — these are snails, after all. These findings don’t close the debate about where memories are stored, and they certainly don’t mean that we can instantly restore detailed memories in humans.
But there are many different types of RNA, and Glanzman’s team plans to do more research to figure out determine which types most directly impact memory.
So, we’re still a ways off from becoming a karate black belt simply by injecting some RNA into our necks, or downloading sweet dance moves directly to our minds. But we may be a step closer to it, thanks to the humble, oft-shocked sea snail.
Depending on your age and affinity for computer games, you may be familiar with The Sims and other games that stemmed from that. These games allow you to create your own house, decorate it, choose your family, your spouse, amusement park and essentially play God.
Playing this game as a kid was always so much fun and no doubt brought developer, Will Wright, huge success as this was a groundbreaking idea for it’s time. Now, his new project is defying what our minds can comprehend as he hopes to intertwine our very own personal memories into the game, and he is asking for your help!
But, What Does This Mean?!
This game is called Proxi, built-in Unity by Wright and a team from Gallam Artists, it’s goal is to create rendered scenes that are entirely based off of your own unique and personal memories.
“This is, in some sense, a game of self-discovery,” Wright said in the announcement video. “(It’s) a game where we actually uncover the hidden ‘you.’”
Wright is hoping that by visually representing your memories in the game, players will be able to learn through their past experiences and the game will continue learning from the player as well.
The video shows a few of these scenes in action, including a man fishing in a lake during a rainy day and a snow-covered log cabin. These are called “Mems” in the game, and multiple players will even be able to combine their memories to create a shared, more complex experience. Wright and Unity are looking for an artist to help them bring these memories to life as “tangible, visceral gameplay elements,” and it could be you.
To enter the contest, you must take three of your own personal memories and bring them to life with separate environmental scenes. Along with this, you’ll need to get all the scenes running in Unity to create a video, and you’ll need to submit an article detailing your creation projects. The art assets created must all be done by you, and they cannot be something you designed previously.
Judges for the contest include Wright himself, Pixar artist Matt Jones, Disney illustrator Bill Robinson, and Journey game designer Robin Hunicke.
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Two winners will receive a grand prize, which includes round-trip flights to San Francisco to meet the development team, a private dinner and interview with the judges, licenses for Allegorithmic and Marmoset, and a bundle featuring shirts, games, and stickers from Wright’s projects.
Yay Or Nay?
In many ways merging technology with ourselves, physical or not is something to be especially wary of. However, if you can keep implants out of your head, share your own memories, and have the opportunity to relive and reenact past experiences that you always wished you could relive or have handled differently, perhaps this could be an effective way to finally heal from memories that haunt us?
Like anything, it’s all about perspective and it would depend on your intention going into this or if it even interests you. Personally, I could see how this could make the game more fun because it is specifically catered to you. This is far from an implant into your brain designed to extract your memories or thoughts, so overall, this does seem pretty harmless and obviously only those who are willing and choosing to take part will do so.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about this? Do you think this is crossing the line down a slippery slope with AI and that we should take a step back? Or is this just harmless fun that is made possible by the incredible advancements in the gaming and tech industry? Let us know in the comments in the Collective Evolution Group on Facebook.
Even as Matt Lauer’s career has gone off the rails into disgrace, the lying is still something to behold. NBC News reported that when executives asked Lauer directly if there ever was any sexual misconduct, Lauer denied it, saying he was “racking his brain and couldn’t think of anything at all,” one executive said.
Chronicling the distance of Lauer’s fall, the New York Post gossip column Page Six reports Lauer’s office has gone from renovation to devastation: “Matt’s office is being completely demolished,” a network insider said. “Everything is going, including that button under his desk, his name plate, the photos of him in the hallways, the pictures of him online and on NBC News social media. They are so sickened by his behavior it is almost like they want to pretend he never existed.” Make your Stalin airbrushing jokes here.
If you wanted to see how Lauer still retains the loyalty of some people still willing to declare him Awesome, seePeople magazine:
“We are all heartbroken and sickened,” a Today show source tells PEOPLE.
The source called Lauer, 59, “the most extraordinary person I’ve ever known,” adding, “What people are alleging is totally out to character.”
“People truly don’t know exactly what this was. I can’t even describe how beloved he is at the show,” the Today source says. “He is so kind and respectful. In 20 years, I’ve never hear him raise his voice ever. He never gets angry. He is always a voice of reason and so kind to everyone and funny. When you see him coming down the hallway, everyone lights up because they’re so happy to see him, because you know he’ll have something fun to say or a funny joke. He always does the right thing. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I always tried to hold myself up to the standards of the type of person he was. He treated me like a daughter. I was there at all levels, and he has treated me with the same respect and generosity every day and every moment. In 20 years, I’ve never seen a single instance of him being anything less than a respectful wonderful colleague.”
But a “network producer” told People that it was “known throughout the industry” that Lauer and wife lived separate lives:
“She lived in the Hamptons and he lived in the city. You never saw her. I never heard anything about her,” the producer says, adding, “I think he was used to having a lot of affairs and and getting what he wanted. He was supposed to project this family image, but this was not what was going on. He was essentially a single guy.”
Moscow (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin has offered his Argentine counterpart Mauricio Macri help in trying to find a submarine that disappeared in the South Atlantic a week ago, and dispatched a Russian military vessel to the scene.
With the hopes of finding the San Juan vessel’s 44 crew members alive dimmed, the search operation has likely stirred memories the Russian strongman would rather forget.
In 2000, just a few months after the former KGB officer assumed his presidential duties for the first time, Russia lost a nuclear submarine with all 118 sailors on board following a bungled rescue effort.
Some of the parallels with the Argentine disaster are eerie: explosions on board the vessel, a race against time to save the crew, and the false hope and fury of relatives.
The loss of the Kursk became the worst disaster in the history of the Russian navy and a huge embarrassment for Putin.
The Kursk, which was Russia’s most modern nuclear submarine, caught fire and exploded in August 2000 due to a torpedo fuel leak while conducting naval exercises in the Barents Sea.
The new Russian president was on vacation at the Black Sea resort of Sochi when the submarine sank. He kept silent for nearly a week, returning to the Kremlin only five days after disaster struck.
It took him another four days to travel to the northern port of Murmansk to oversee the rescue operation.
On top of that, Moscow controversially refused foreign help with the rescue operation at first.
Putin was later criticised for his error of judgement and for misleading the public about the pace of the rescue operation.
– ‘Hatred, despair and pain’ –
Most of the crew died instantly but some survived for several days — with a few keeping heart-breaking diaries to their loved ones — before suffocating.
“My dear Natasha and son Sasha!!! If you have this letter that means I am gone. I love you both very much,” senior warrant officer Andrei Borisov told his wife and child in his last note.
“Natasha, forgive me for everything. Sashulya, be a man. I kiss you.”
On August 22, 2000, the president held a meeting with relatives of the Kursk crew members in the northen port town of Vidyaevo.
Some of the family members yelled at a visibly rattled Putin.
He chalked up the disaster to the state of disrepair of the country’s once mighty military force, blaming his predecessors.
“I had no idea that things were in such a state,” Putin told the angry relatives. “If I could I would go down there myself.”
Kremlin reporter Andrei Kolesnikov, who was at the closed-door meeting, thought the relatives would tear the president apart.
“There was such a heavy atmosphere there, such a clot of hatred, and despair, and pain. I never felt anything like it anywhere in my entire life,” he said in a documentary released in 2015.
When Russian television, which in 2000 was controlled by oligarchs, aired interviews with the wives of the Kursk sailors, an outraged Putin reportedly complained to a prominent journalist that “whores” had been hired to discredit him.
MOSUL, Iraq — Bodies of dead Islamic State fighters still lay in the streets of west Mosul. Severed limbs from corpses were burnt, charred and strewn among the rubble of destroyed houses. The stench of death, a mixture of bodily waste and rotting flesh, mingled with the smell of garbage that hung in the air. The only way to cope with the nausea was to avoid deep breaths and take small sips of flavored sodium water from a plastic bottle that was melting in the broiling sun. But the stench was not the only thing the dead ISIS fighters left behind.
As Iraqi forces extend their control over the city, killing or chasing away remaining ISIS fighters, they encounter reminders of the regime imposed by the militant cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who declared a new Islamic caliphate at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri. Meant to be a new era and empire, it has fallen in just three years. Al-Baghdadi himself has been reported killed, although his death has not been confirmed.
The ISIS fighters have continued to resist even after the battle was lost, rocking the city with explosions that shattered ancient structures and sent debris flying to land in heaps on the streets.
Iraqi forces listening in on ISIS radio transmissions heard signs of dissent and chaos in the ranks. The militants argued over which brigade had more men, who was most badly injured and whom they should leave behind. Their injuries went largely unattended and open to infection. They were weak, their morale low, and Iraqi forces knew they could take advantage of their weaknesses.
Wahlid, an Iraqi special-forces soldier, told me, “They’re fighting their hardest,” then he added, “but among themselves they have disputes.”
In a dimly lit room in a house near the front lines used as a base by Iraqi special forces, Wahlid told stories about listening to ISIS. The air conditioning was on full blast inside the house. He sat on a couch, drinking energy drinks and smoking cigarettes. An old walkie-talkie on an end table next to him crackled with voices chattering back and forth. An Iraqi commander shouted, “Get the Humvees out; find a safe place.” ISIS had coordinates for Iraqi soldiers in another neighborhood, and he was telling them to move before ISIS attacked.
Wahlid laughed and with a smirk told what he considered a humorous story about an ISIS suicide bomber stranded in his explosive-filled car in the middle of the road. “The [Iraqi] soldiers shot at him,” Wahlid said. “His car broke down, he pressed the button and it didn’t work. So the militant who was in the car called on the radio back to the other [ISIS] militants, telling them, ‘The infidels broke down my car, but I can’t make it explode, I cannot blow it up because the button does not work. If you have any other way, brothers, blow it up, I want to blow up the car on the infidels.’”
Iraqi forces called for an airstrike. The car blew up.
ISIS fighters left behind a legacy of self-inflicted martyrdom, expecting rewards in heaven if they died fighting their alleged enemies. They saw themselves as heroes. The world did not agree.
Many came from other countries, tens of thousands of them who left behind a life they knew for a desert they didn’t know. Perhaps some of them left their homes for money, or a chance to be part of history. But the history they created is still desperate to leave them behind.
Many times, soldiers on the front lines admitted they couldn’t understand the ISIS fighters. They spoke different languages. Troops reported chatter in what they thought was Russian, Turkish and an Eastern language they couldn’t identify. One of the soldiers from the Najaf battalion, Rami, said that he was ethnically Turkmen and that sometimes he could understand the Turkish ISIS fighters.
The fighters also left behind their identities and documents. An Iraqi soldier said that while fighting at the front line, he noticed a woman in a black robe and hijab, a scarf around her head. He caught her eye. “I waved for her to run toward me,” he said.
He thought she was a civilian trying to escape. But when she moved along the wall in front of her house, he realized she was hiding an M-16 beneath her clothes. She realized she was exposed and fled. The soldier said she got away. He never said why he didn’t shoot.
But when he approached the house later, he found her identification. She had a German name on a German ID card. He also found a marriage certificate, issued by ISIS. She was married to a Russian fighter. What they left behind was a marriage that would never be recognized anywhere else. ISIS created its own system, its own contracts, records that are meaningless to a world that would never recognize the Islamic State.
ISIS had its own religious police, too, and “punishment officers,” who would correct or even arrest civilians who didn’t follow their rules and laws. One member of ISIS left his officer’s vest in the streets.
And when they fled, ISIS fighters left behind their weapons. Iraqi soldiers picked up weapons throughout the fight, some made in ISIS bomb factories, including mortars and rockets, and old Soviet-era rocket-propelled grenades that ISIS modified and improved. If the weapons were functional, Iraqis repurposed them and killed ISIS fighters with their own weapons. Wahlid demonstrated an RPG-7. “They have made some updates to it,” he said. “They’ve mixed the powder, and the wings [they added] will make it fly.”
Some ISIS rebels weren’t killed by Iraqi forces or their own weapons but instead were caught and arrested. They were sent to intelligence battalions to be interrogated. At a small base on the outskirts of Mosul’s Old City, Iraqi intelligence officers allowed foreign journalists limited access to several suspects in custody. Bearded, with zip ties around their hands, the captured fighters were ushered back and forth between rooms. Some of the men’s eyes looked young, some old, but all seemed worn out and solemn. An intelligence officer pointed to one man and said he “knew” the man was ISIS because he had “confessed.”
But of all that ISIS left behind, most of all the armed group left Iraqi citizens grieving, even those who sympathized with the Sunni-linked fighters as a way to resist what they saw as an oppressive Shia-majority government. Even they had turned against ISIS, after three years of living under its governance.
The civilians who fled left behind everything they owned. They left behind loved ones whom they will never get to bury. They left photos of their mothers and fathers, taken in the days before the war and occupation.
Shoes, scarves, T-shirts and dresses littered the streets. White flags still hung on the doors. Families believed that if they hung white cloth on their doors they might be safe. The Iraqi soldiers assured the people of Mosul that the white flags would signal they were on the government side and against ISIS. The civilians didn’t want to be arrested or questioned; they wanted to escape. But as the city grew more dangerous, the white flags were not enough to save them. A new order came down from the Iraqi forces: run.
So they ran. And they left their flags behind, hung from the ruins of their devastated city, once a thriving metropolis in the very cradle of civilization.
Ash Gallagher is a journalist covering the Mideast for Yahoo News.
Are there any bad memories in your life that you wish you could simply erase? Researchers might have found a way to do exactly that thanks to the discovery of the enzyme in the brain that plays a pivotal role in storing long-term memories. They believe that this enzyme could be targeted in order to essentially wipe distressing memories out of the minds of people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, like many things that sound too good to be true, this development is raising red flags left and right.
Scientists have long known that creating new memories and storing old ones involve the creation of proteins in the synapse, where two brain cells meet. For this process to be successful, genes must be expressed in the nucleus of the cell, and this is where a key enzyme can turn genes on or off as new memories are formed. It’s also believed that this enzyme, which is known as ACSS2, plays a role in the memory impairment that is seen in neurodegenerative disorders.
In the study, the researchers found that lowering ACSS2 levels in mice reduced the expression of memory genes, thereby stopping the formation of long-term memories. Mice who had reduced enzyme levels showed no interest in a ball they saw the previous day, whereas those with normal levels of the enzyme were interested in the ball.
Now the researchers are hoping to use this knowledge to stop traumatic memories from forming in people with PTSD simply by blocking the brain’s ACSS2. This might sound like a good idea to those of us who are haunted by some sort of trauma, but there’s also the potential for this to be used for more sinister reasons.
Another convenient form of mind control
For example, what’s to stop an agency like the CIA from erasing highly inconvenient memories from people’s minds? The police state could use it as a way to deal with people who it deems to be “anti-establishment.” A journalist who uncovers damning evidence about something like vaccines or GMOs could easily be made to forget that information before they are able to report on it. The possibilities are as endless as they are disturbing.
Of course, there’s also the fact that some of our bad memories likely serve a very good purpose. If we erase our memories of mistakes we’ve made, for example, what will stop us from repeating them later? If you wiped the memory of being stalked by someone, the next time you encounter that person, you might even invite them into your house!
While it’s hard to imagine why a criminal psychologist would want to convince a patient they did something they hadn’t, it does raise a lot of interesting questions. If she can do it, it’s hardly a stretch to imagine that others, including law enforcement and governmental agencies, also possess this capability. If so, there really is nothing stopping them from using it to convince those who oppose them or speak out against them that they committed a crime and lock them up.