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How to manually change a memory: Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu at TEDxBoston

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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. About TEDx In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)
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Text Comments (99)
Pjotr Andreev (5 hours ago)
I went to this video cuz I wanted to know how they will tell you that changing your memories is a good thing.
i teach psychology (1 day ago)
the modifying memory part seems to be just a case of conditioning. from blue to red with charge and then sending back to the blue box, it's association.. it doesnt mean the mice has false memory of the blue box.
Mateus Soares (6 months ago)
Love this talk, very entertain the way that they presented themselves. About the subject I cannot opine on it because I don't have any knowledge about it.
vandit jain (10 months ago)
Just like weapons were invented to save us from our enemies, but it turned out that they are the cause of mass destruction and terrorism throughout the world. So, if this technique becomes practical with humans some day, it will surely have devastating impacts. We are what we are because of our memories and they are not supposed to be altered.
Speedy Gonzales (11 months ago)
Great presentation and awesome content. these guys totally nailed it.
meryem mery (1 year ago)
amazing i want to forget my phobia :( :( :(
Skyler Landale (1 year ago)
I hate inhumane animal experiments. this is gross.
meryem mery (1 year ago)
lol !! then dont take meds
StargazingTwilan (1 year ago)
Dude this is the fucking end of humanity
Mundo Invisível XD (1 year ago)
can we make the chinese people forget about the "days of misery " to stop using that to justify eating dogs ?
William Clark (1 year ago)
Not memory alter its stimulating Fear sensation. If anyone has a video on memory altering that is proven please show me creativityfound@yahoo.com
Khush Fehm (2 years ago)
Memory Editor! Cool technology!
Junita Moolman (2 years ago)
How can you improve my memory, need to now please
Junita Moolman (2 years ago)
May I be the test subject?
Junita Moolman (2 years ago)
Hey I am currently studying to become a Radiation and Protection Monitor and never had any science on school and I need to remember nuclides, processes in detail,alpha beta,wave length, equations, graphs and how to draw them,maths and formulas.How in the world will I ever remember all of it ever,can you help
Thomas Hoover (1 year ago)
The only way I know is to make up your own problems using the information you are trying to learn, and solve them.
vmwindustries (2 years ago)
Old age memory loss is your keywords for funding
J Bats (2 years ago)
Fascinating. I can only imagine how provocative it would be to tailor all memories to be positive, yet though experience good/bad is where our personal development blooms (emotional intelligence). I think this technology could be beneficial to those who suffer serious trauma yet where is the proverbial line in the sand/ethics, etc.
mbforex (2 years ago)
It contains a massive error. The perception is or to say different is that they transferred memory.  What if what they transferred is a chemical reaction which can exist independent from what we call memory.  Or are you all saying that when I transfer a memory the Mouse can now eat with a spoon and fork or reflect on memory itself ???? This world is the world were packing is sold the goal is quite obvious if you can see it.  One thing is for sure ..he is trying to make sure he does not get dumped again by a girl friend. I guess he is planing to get a clone and inject her memory of the good times and relive it every day. But that is trying to play GOD and you already wrong in what you believe you have transferred in the first place. WOE WOE WOE. Even a dog builds saliva when you train him with a bell when feeding him. They are playing with the shadow believing they are playing with the light which makes the shadow.
LoesungFeuer5 (2 years ago)
Könnte man die Erinnerungen von Menschen mit PTBS abschalten so das sie wieder gesund wären?  Would it be possible to cure PTSD on that way?
pntrbob (2 years ago)
+LoesungFeuer5 As a disabled vet with PTSD, I am very very intrigued by the answer to this question.
bikerusl (3 years ago)
How do they know shooting a laser into your brain doesn't cause you to freeze because - you are getting a laser shot in your brain? Doesn't seem like very good evidence for a memory. A memory is something you don't forget. Like the solution to a maze. A fear response from a memory or a fear response from brain lasers? Seems like a very bad proof. I suppose if these guys have legitimate awards there must be more to it. Erasing a fear "memory" would be a more logical proof of concept.
bikerusl (1 year ago)
+pntrbob I would say he mentions, rather than discusses, that idea. I feel quite skeptical about this presentation. I don't think we get real science on the Internet in videos like this - nor from newsmedia reports of a certain study. I'm not sure what a "real scientist" is but real science is rarely so sensational or definite in it's conclusions. You could well say I'm just youtube commentator and my skepticism lacks rigour. Guilty as charged. Still, on this sensational unmoderated, unqualified venue, I've a right to call BS on something that really offers very little qualification or proof - and even the underlying concept is pretty hard to support logically. People made all sorts of fantastic "scientific" claims about electrodes in the brain many decades ago. Turns out a lot of that was doing damage and unethical. Some was real advancement in understanding but a LOT less than sometimes claimed. SSRIs - the famous mood altering drugs, have a Sciency sounding acronym "Selective Seratonin Reuptake Inhibitors" however that term is a marketing term really. We don't actually know how it works. We certainly don't understand it as selective - but that sure makes it sound like we know. In the real world doctors ask patients to try these drugs out and see how they feel. They don't know why it works for one person and not another. Brains are very complicated. I doubt lasers are all that more refined than the wires inserted years ago. I'm glad there are ethical standards that limit most of this to small mammals instead of people. Our ethical standards are a more sure sign of human progress, in my opinion. (And you can take that how you may - maybe it's a pretty small advance) I get frustrated by the hype about utopian technology in forums like this. We should all just sit back and consume, our benevolent owners will "innovate" a happy future without any more need for the dirtiness of democracy. Apologies for the fatalism.
meryem mery (1 year ago)
what about alzheimer and memory loss ( some memories ) so losing memory or some memories really exist
pntrbob (2 years ago)
+bikerusl Around 14:20 they discuss doing just that, converting a fear memory into a pleasure memory. And as these guys are real scientists and not just Internet ones, they likely had to have a control group in the very beginning to prove that shooting a laser into the brain did not jack up the mice.
stan klein (3 years ago)
What a crok!
maphewU6 (3 years ago)
I volunteer to donate my body and mind to science
Gosha Popov (3 years ago)
What if the mice aren't "imagining" their experience in the other box but the same emotions?
Kevin Webster (3 years ago)
Hmmm another answer I was looking for. WHY YOU NO COME SOONER!!!
ftffighter (3 years ago)
Human experimental trial patent right here!!!!
E.T. (3 years ago)
Mr. Asian sensation up there rocking his asian style english. Gotta love it.
upplsuckimcool16 (3 years ago)
There are more humane ways than shocking the feet I think... like color coded mouse mazes?
TheseEyesGod (3 years ago)
+upplsuckimcool16 I quite agree with you. Kinda freaks me out that these guys are so calm & cool without a care in the world while creating *real misery* for these little guys. Nasty, just heartless - & thoughtless.
John Paul (3 years ago)
This theory sounds closely similar to electric shock therapy used for psychiatric purposes. Lol JK But I think the most profound discoveries from these trials is that they can target the memory part of the brain to rewrite and delete that said memory through activating the pain sensors of that brain. Perhaps, if their was a way to store abundantly significant amount of memory into the brain and then reactivating could possible cure many mental disease and alzheimer
Max Loh (3 years ago)
How safe is this technology for human trials? I want to participate. We'd get so much more information from human trials because a mouse can only freeze or do mousey things whereas a human can say "I was able to relive the memory a bit, but the sound was distorted and the red coat was actually black for some reason"
jamie shelley (3 years ago)
Most humans can only do mousy things :3
Max Loh (3 years ago)
QUESTION: Are they really "stimulating a memory", or are they just "stimulating the cells that comprised the experience of the shock", thereby simulating an electric shock in real time? Seems to me more like the latter, but maybe they are essentially the same?
ugotabeeonurhed (3 years ago)
+The Launching Pad Even if it is not the case they still need further funding to find out the truth. Regardless of me defending them I don't like diving into this part of science. It is like finding out how to make an atomic/nuclear bomb.. not the greatest thing science has done for humanity.
bikerusl (3 years ago)
+The Launching Pad I had some doubts about their methods as well. But all the insults you are writing detract from that point.
Now listen here cunt, (3 years ago)
+The Launching Pad I'd rather pay those people to conduct a study on the average number of farts a human does in their sleep or to see what the hottest potato chip a seagull can eat is......
upplsuckimcool16 (3 years ago)
this was what I wondered.... the hippacampus is not onyl used for memory is it?
hodan farah (3 years ago)
they will probably receive offers from military?to do..............  
Nigel Williams (4 years ago)
Hmmm, and just what are the American Military doing with this technology?. They would definitely want human "guinea pigs" to develop it, but where could you get them from .... How about a plane full of "missing presumed dead" people. Such as Flight MH370 diverted and landed at Diego Garcia
Lawrence Sibusiso (4 years ago)
funny Chinese guy.
Parralyzed (2 years ago)
+Arun Thomas That's so sad
Arun Thomas (3 years ago)
He is no more Buddy 
Lawrence Sibusiso (3 years ago)
what do you mean 'was'?
Arun Thomas (3 years ago)
He was a Neuroscientist :( http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42200/title/Notable-Young-Neuroscientist-Dies/
Violet Rain (4 years ago)
Creating technology for mind control....... thanks geniuses.
Chuckles TheHut (4 years ago)
Perfect example of scientists naivete regarding the real world, in which non-scientists live.  "The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing brain chips that will implant or remove specific memories from a subject, a prospect some may deem chilling given DARPA’s previous advocacy of authentication microchips." http://www.infowars.com/darpa-brain-chips-to-implant-false-memories/
Snoot Snooterton (4 years ago)
WOW!!!  I was so surprised at just how underwhelmed the audience was. These guys are incredible.
Jeff (4 years ago)
They really have no idea if it worked or if the light interrupted another part of the mouses brain rendering it static like it was. I don't understand why they where so sure.
upplsuckimcool16 (3 years ago)
I'm sure they didn't present the entire study... if othat is all they did then it would never have been reviewed by anyone. there has to be a control group and two test groups.
hodan farah (3 years ago)
exactly , the didn't run to the corner
LynxVita (4 years ago)
What makes them belive it's an actual memory and not just the sensation of fear?
Parralyzed (2 years ago)
+LynxVita My guess would be that brain cells, responsible for memory formation of the relevant kind were targeted, rather than, fear inducing cells of, say, the amygdala
Philo Jewett (4 years ago)
What if we created happy memories? Why do we need to create fear? That's the most terrible thing to create... This is where "science" tends to display it's own ignorance. Let's put animals into boxes and put fear into them! It's all fully justified, of course... because maybe we can benefit ourselves! Why don't we just put humans into boxes and put fear into them? Oh wait, that's called school, work, culture, life in general... (and that's "immoral" to do directly, but perfectly normal to do indirectly 24/7) There's something to be said for learning how to create positive associations by ourselves in meditation. We can heal anything my friends :) We don't actually need to shoot lasers into our brains to trick ourselves into feeling better. That's about as good as taking a pill because we have a headache instead of figuring out why we have a headache to begin with so that we don't have any more headaches. Sound familiar? The human ego loves science, though. We can compartmentalize boundless creation into a couple boxes and play with some factors. We might even find something we didn't know about compartmentalized thinking! We may further the compartmentalized cause! This is the latest advancement :) Hahahaha!! PS: If you take any part of what I say literally or seriously you are handing over control of your emotions to me. I don't recommend that you do this. Because I will start shooting lasers into your brains and cause you to 'freeze' during important moments.
upplsuckimcool16 (3 years ago)
I KIND of agree.... if there is no other way then yeah do it... HOWERVER, this experiment would have been just as good with color coded mouse mazes with cheese at the end..... it actually probably owuld have made the test results more believable if it were to work.. it's more thorough thisway..... maybe slightly more work... but jesus christ.
Carinne Caraceni (4 years ago)
Wicked fascinoma, in other words..... awesome
Jason Matten (4 years ago)
This is incredible. Obviously this technology could be developed for more precise and extensive changes in memory, but in regard to their initial ideas of creating false memories (11:04), there are far simpler ways. Elizabeth Loftus (2003) identified methods that don't need viruses or lasers, just the use of consistent misinformation that cues inaccurate memory retrieval and encoding. Cognitive Psychology methods can reprogram an individual to believe and remember differently. 
JR Woods (4 years ago)
Who are the 7 people that "don't like" this? Geez. These guys know what they're doing and have done a great job presenting it. 
kibz39 (4 years ago)
the "sick feeling" i was referring to was not about the progress of knowledge. It was about the repercussions of the research and its potential applications that I believe to be inhumane and unethical. It was also probably because I don't particularly agree with animal testing (and yes that does limit research quite a bit) but there needs to be more regulations on it in my opinion (and this experiment would not cut it). But I work in a field that terrifies the older generations and some of the younger because of science fiction; I love AI and robotics and I'm very excited about where the science is going to take us. So it's comparable in some aspects but not in the mistreatment aspect.
Jeff (4 years ago)
I dont think eather of you really understand human nature. Humans fear the unknown and progress promises the unknown, it promises change. It doesnt matter in what context progress is applied to.
R Davis (4 years ago)
+JR Woods MA MDiv I'll let you re-read my post, specifically the parenthetical phrase "without harming subjects, of course". Pretty sure every one of the examples you listed resulted in harming subjects. Don't bother apologizing, just read more carefully in the future. I stand by my comment.
JR Woods (4 years ago)
+Zen Dou irrational to fear progress, huh? You haven't had a history lesson clearly. Hitler wanted "progress" and created world-wide fear over it. Ghangis kahn wanted "progress" and created a lot of fear over that too. The list goes on and on. Roman Emperors were killed because of the fear they created in the name "progress" and here's the morale your missing--the ends do NOT always justify the means. Progress as a term designating forward change does not consider moral issues on its own. This consideration has to be made by those moral beings considering the "progress." 
R Davis (4 years ago)
I'm guessing the "sick feeling" in your stomach doesn't have anything to do with the moral questions of how it's used, does it? Seeking knowledge and understanding (without harming subjects, of course) is paramount. It's irrational to fear progress and knowledge. However, we do need to be mindful about how the knowledge and power is wielded. 
Bharat Nagalia (4 years ago)
harold and kumar !! :P
drhenner (4 years ago)
Am I the only person that thinks this is just as scary as it is cool?  Applying this to things like Alzheimer's disease or dementia is great.  But changing bad memories / good memories is not good.  Although bad memories seem bad they are NOT bad!  They are good.  They help us react wisely to REAL situations rather than reacting to a false memory.  
meryem mery (1 year ago)
no they are not good . especially if you suffer from phobias and trauma it's terrible
saratsin (4 years ago)
mmmllllllllllllllrrrrrqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqq
halil232j (4 years ago)
is it possible that the mice are scared of the light?
MrTolly (4 years ago)
No, the mice do not physically "see" the light. You can kind of imagine it like somebody shining a torch to the back of your head - you'll have no idea it's there. The light penetrates the brain and activates the rhodopsin channels (originating from algae or something similar) which were artificially placed on the neuron by the virus they mentioned. This channel essentially lets sodium into the cell whenever it senses light. Sodium entering the channel mimicks an action potential (a brain signal firing).
Paulo Teixeira (4 years ago)
And controlling our memories isn´t a bit creepy... like mind control? I don´t care how smart this looks... it´s morals or ethics are questionable. The worst TED i´ve saw.
Paulo Teixeira (4 years ago)
the only thing that i don´t like in this is the fact of using animals. I don´t care if it is only a mouse. It´s a living being. I don´t know about this experiment in particular but alot of them are painfull to the animals.
andres martinez (4 years ago)
just like the videogame remember me
Kre8or333 (4 years ago)
Am I the only one who has no sound on this vid? Other ones work fine, this one... nothing
Nikifor (4 years ago)
ya me to : ( 
jautrsezis (4 years ago)
creepy
Iain Kerr (4 years ago)
The sad block of flesh here who are not understanding can go read a book. Read it over and over until you can not think of anything but a play by play. Then forget all of the book besides the main characters. This is the biases of what they are talking about shortly talking about how. This show is for smart people. So good day idiots.
Benjamin .Tampa (4 years ago)
this will be an amazingly great thing for humanity. Awe, the human brain is a fallible machine, that we are everyday getting closer and closer to fixing.
Slush Tech (4 years ago)
I think we should look at the good in what this can do. Smoking is the brains need for nicotine, the brain craves it once you start smoking long enough. So a memory must be connected to this, take the memory section of the brain of a none smoker and let them smoke a cigarette, at first this will have a negative memory attached to it. Take this memory and use it to replace the memory of someone who smokes and the brain switches off the need to want to smoke. Use this for many addictions.
Black & White (4 years ago)
This is a horrible waste of human resources, nothing good can come from this research.
Raffi Donoian (4 years ago)
10:32 Eliot
NunZ (4 years ago)
This is so awesome
judojustim (4 years ago)
OUR MINDS CAN FIGHT BACK!!!!
digital111x (4 years ago)
This.Is.Amazing.
Morlanius (4 years ago)
so basically the setup for this is merely the ability to introduce a compound to the body at the right time ... easy enough .. and light triggering it, well .. microwaves, x-rays etc are all also light ... this is dangerous stuff.
Diego Melendez (4 years ago)
won't take long before this project falls into gouverment hands and corrupt this beautifull project
DPatel (4 years ago)
Dear Steve and Xu.....thank you for the educational speech......I think the effect of pot high is wearing off....get of the stage before you get caught......
yes it all depends of triggering agents...when one can do on his own...yes that is what the indian rishis talk about mind control...sure if science is going to make it possible for everyone...god bless him....it is going tobe a crazy world...
Michal Kravec (4 years ago)
What if I am mice and you implanted all my memories inside my brain. Now i think i am commenting on this video because you changed my memories so when i masturbate, i thing i am commenting video????????
JCP - Cullen Herron (4 years ago)
I feel sorry for the asian guy, he seems really nervous.
Callan S. (4 years ago)
It's pretty weird how blithely they talk about screwing with the fundimentals corner stones of morality. I suspect their notion of morality simply doesn't detect this as any kind of threat. Perhaps they could go modify that...
Carrie Paulsen (4 years ago)
ethical ramifications of mind control... didn't we see this coming and has been in so many movies and even cartoons
Walter Thatcher (4 years ago)
This is awesome! I really enjoyed this video, and it made me think about the possibilities of the future!
Walter Thatcher (4 years ago)
The laser beam didn't hurt the mouse.
richnin (4 years ago)
anytime i see something like this I can't help but think about Deus Ex: Human Revolution... it scares the shmish outta me... but of course all the POSITIVE applications are promising... when he says "we can potentially remove unwanted memories" I automatically thought --- yeah, a person can remove unwanted memories of their own or somebody's memories unwanted by another person" ::GASP::
SteamPunkPhysics (4 years ago)
Aliens could benefit from this research. Apparently they haven't quite mastered the delete yet...
Torsten Zeppenfeld (4 years ago)
I don't quite understand. Doesn't their experiment just prove that if you zap a mouse with a laser beam, it hurts?
rockywrakun (4 years ago)
Ummmm... no. This won't become mainstream. Can't eliminate or modify memories in general. This is way too unethical. We might be able to learn with this and use the knowledge for more hollistic approaches. But honestly to just go and delete a memory like that is just fucked up beyond repair.

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