Marine snails: the key to understanding memory?

New research with these animals opens the door to a better understanding of the functioning of memory

Marine snails: the key to understanding memory?

The magazine eNeuro, dedicated to the dissemination of advances and news in the field of neuroscience, has published the results of an investigation carried out in marine snails by scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles.

Leer en español: Caracoles marinos: ¿la clave para entender la memoria?

The research aimed to test if it was possible to transfer memories from one animal to another, for this Professor David Glanzman and his team of researchers decided to make tests with several specimens of Aplysia californica, a kind of marine snail in which it is easy to study memory due to the large size of their neurons.

The tests consisted of administering a series of small electric shocks to the snails to obtain a defensive response. The first time the snails received a shock, they contracted their bodies for about a second to avoid shocks and then returned to their normal state. The scientists continued to administer the crashes until the snails became sensitized to them and began to remain with the contracted bodies for up to fifty seconds.

For the next stage of the tests, the researchers took ribonucleic acid from the sensitized snails and injected it into some specimens from another group of snails to later give them small shocks as well. The snails that were not injected with the acid contracted for a second, while those that did receive the acid remained contracted for fifty seconds, as if they remembered the crashes despite being the first time they received them.

Finally and to corroborate the results, the scientists took neurons from the snails without the acid and impregnated them with them to study them, it was there that they saw that the neurons also responded as if they were already used to the reaction to shocks.

Glanzman mentioned that this experiment can help the future creation of treatments for memory-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's and post-traumatic stress disorder, because one day they may modify, transmit and repress memories. But he also said that there is still time for this to be possible.

The professor was optimistic when saying that he hopes that other teams of researchers will replicate this experiment but with different animals, hoping that this will accelerate the acquisition of new knowledge. He also took the opportunity to mention that the snails in which the experiment was carried out were not damaged despite the nature of the investigation, since they were given very mild electric shocks, only strong enough to get an answer.

As there are different types of ribonucleic acids and these carry out different functions, the Glanzman team will now focus on testing different types of ribonucleic acid, to see which of these have the most impact on memory.


Latin American Post | Alan Rosas González

Translated from "Caracoles marinos: ¿las claves para entender la memoria?"