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Oh, I Remember It Now

Researchers have made sea slugs remember something that didn't happen to them by transferring RNA to them from other sea slugs, the New York Times reports.

UCLA's David Glanzman and his colleagues used Aplysia californica sea slugs to explore how memories are formed and stored. As they report in eNeuro, they shocked one group of sea slugs on their tails, which leads them to retract their siphon, a defensive move. Sea slugs that have been shocked previously retract their siphon for longer than untrained sea slugs, they added.

The researchers then isolated RNA from the central nervous system of the trained sea slugs and transferred it into untrained slugs. Seas slugs on the receiving end, when shocked, acted just like trained slugs and retracted their siphon for the longer-than-usual time. In a follow-up experiment, they further found that DNA methylation was required for this effect.

Discover's D-brief blog notes that most neuroscientists say that synapses are a key part of memory formation, but it adds that, in combination with other work they've done, the UCLA researchers say their findings suggest that the nucleus might be important for memory formation. "It feels like I'm way out on a limb, frankly," Glanzman tells the Times.

It is, as the Times says, rather Black Mirror-y.