Researchers at MIT have successfully implanted false memories in mice. Using a technique called optogenetics, researchers were able to isolate neurons controlling a single memory in the brain, tag them, then later stimulate them with light to induce the memory.

“If mice had Hollywood, this would be ‘Inception’ for them,” said Steve Ramirez, one of the lead researchers of the study, referring to the 2010 science-fiction film. The study was published online in the journal Science.

Whitley’s latest journal discusses possibly implanted memories he has of his visitor experiences. You can read his journal here.

First, researchers discovered a way to reactivate a memory the mouse has actually experienced. They triggered the memory of a tiny electrical jolt the mouse received upon stepping into a red colored chamber. Later, upon stepping into the same red chamber, the mouse stops suddenly, recalling a fearful memory of the jolt.

Next, they took a new mouse let it explore a red chamber. The next day, they released it into a blue chamber, where it simultaneously gave it a jolt and stimulated the memory of the red chamber, which caused the mouse to associate a fearful memory with the red room. When it was then released back into the “safe” red room, it stopped suddenly, remembering the false memory of being shocked in the red room.

Although they don’t expect a human trial anytime soon, Michael Kahana, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Computation Memory Lab (and not involved in the project) called the study a “technical tour de force.” Researchers hope to use the information someday to treat psychological illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

In his journal entry, Whitley Strieber points out that close encounter witnesses have already been subjected to other forms of advanced technology, such as implanted objects that defy scientific explanation. Could it also be that they bear false memories of what happened to them? It is to be hoped that as this research progresses, it will become possible to detect the difference between an implanted memory and a real one. This would provide scientists with a major tool in studying the physical effects of close encounter, if any.

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