Scientists Implant False Memories In A MousePosted: July 29, 2013
Word got out last week that researchers have found a way to cause mice to have false memories. Most of the world read the headline announcing this discovery and asked “what’s the point?”. My question was different. I wondered what it was like to have memories that didn’t really happen.
I got in touch with one of the mice involved in the experiment. Unfortunately, he did not show up for our appointment because he didn’t remember that we’d set up the meeting. It was awkward when I called to confirm. I later found that this was not an isolated experience.
While I wasn’t able to speak with a mouse who’d participated in the experiment, I did speak with some who were close to one of those mice. It seems those closest to this mouse are not as enamored with the result as the scientists are.
“He Used To Be Fun…”
Neither of the mice I spoke with would give their names. They worry that by speaking out, they are putting their ability to make a living at risk.
“We’re all risk takers. It’s what lab mice do” said the black mouse I spoke with. “We know when we go to work in the labs we’re never going to be exactly the same.”
His friend, the white mouse, agreed and added “yeah, but what they did to Mark – come on, that’s not what he signed up for. No sir. They put stuff in his head that never happened. He believes that stuff and it has caused a ton of problems.”
“What sort of problems do the false memories cause?” I asked. The white mouse kept the floor. “At first it was little things. He claimed he’d been at Woodstock. Yeah, Woodstock. Says he knows Hendrix was the greatest guitarist ever because he saw him.” The black mouse jumped in. “Come on, man, all mice love Jimi Hendrix, but Woodstock was in 1969. A mouse, if he’s very lucky, maybe lasts four years. But you can’t tell him that. And other mice don’t know that he’s sick. They treat him badly.”
The white mouse shook his head and said “he was fun. A good mouse. Now he’s…”, his voice trailed off.
“…he’s kind of an ass” said the black mouse. The white mouse seemed to know what his friend was bringing up and tried to stop him from talking about it. The black mouse would have none of it.
“Who Does That To A Mouse?”
“There was an ugly scene between Mark and my sister” he said. “We all grew up together. One day Mark comes back from work and “remembers” marrying my sister. He walks in and is pawing her and I’m all like “dude, step off her man, that’s my sister.” It got pretty friggin’ nasty before it ended.”
The white mouse said, quietly, “you know he wouldn’t have done that before. He’s sick, man. I wish you hadn’t hit him, but I totally get why you did.” Both mice grew quiet, seeming to dwell on a difficult memory that no one implanted in them.
“He deserves better. Who does that to a mouse?” muttered the black mouse.
Day To Day
“Grabbing your buddy’s sister is not a small thing, but do the memories cause him more routine sorts of problems? I asked.
The black mouse spoke up. “He’s never where he should be anymore. I don’t know how the lab coats put stuff into his brain, but I do know that unless you tell him things the same way there’s no shot he’s going to remember. He missed my second birthday party. I’m getting pretty old, who knows if I’ll get a third?”
The white mouse chimed in “Mostly, it’s just that he acts different. No one knows how to react to a mouse that remembers random stuff from 1969 one minute, then brings up a conversation from last week. He’s isolated. Mice are avoiding Mark and it is hard to watch. Like I said, he’s a friend who was a great mouse.”
“The lab coats, they know we’ve got to work to put cheese on our tables. But how do you go to work knowing that they’re willing to cross a line that way?”
Both mice agreed that the memory experiment was a step too far. It seemed that the black mouse had more to say, but then the white mouse spoke up. “Mark, what’s shakin’, mouse?” They both drifted away from me as if we hadn’t been speaking and greeted a gray mouse coming from the direction of the lab.
They spoke like old friends who were glad to see one another. I started toward my car so Mark the mouse wouldn’t become suspicious of his friends. Behind me, I heard a raised, frustrated voice chirp out “no, you were NOT on the grassy knoll, Mark! You’ve got to start fighting back when you go in there. No you WERE NOT!”
Memories aren’t to be fooled with.
Speaking of memories, I’d like you all to remember that I am part of a new online humor magazine, Long Awkward Pause. Long Awkward Pause was created by noted online humor magazine impresario, Chris De Voss. Chris is known for projects such as Long Awkward Pause and well, I’m sure there’s another or he wouldn’t insist on being called an impresario.
LAP (as the cool kids call it) will contain original material and re-blogs from all seven writers. Once every month we’ll select a reader suggested topic and all seven writers will take that topic on in their own way. The first topic will be posted for you to see on August 1, the posts on that topic will follow, one per day.
Go on over to Long Awkward Pause, get to know the other writers and don’t forget to subscribe. While you’re there, if you want to spray paint your name on the walls, go ahead because De Voss is loaded.