Decapitated Worms Regrow Heads, Keep Old Memories

0

In French Revolution-style, researchers decapitated flatworms—then did something that would give even Madam Defarge the creeps.


The scientists let the worms’ heads grow back and found that their memories returned along with the new noggins, according to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Michael Levin and Tal Shomrat, biologists at Tufts University, have been studying how animals store and process information, whether it’s memories in the brain or the blueprint for developing organs in the body.

The team turned to flatworms because, despite their relative simplicity, they have many of the same organs and body organization as people: a brain and nervous system, bilateral symmetry, and even some of the same behaviors.

Flatworms “also have many of the same neurotransmitters as we do, and have been shown in older studies to remember complex tasks,” Levin said.

 

Written By: Carrie Arnold
continue to source article at newswatch.nationalgeographic.com

NO COMMENTS

  1. Memory Beyond the Brain

    The obvious question remains: How can a worm remember things after losing its head?

    “We have no idea,” Levin admitted. “What we do know is that memory can be stored outside the brain—presumably in other body cells—so that [memories] can get imprinted onto the new brain as it regenerates.”

    Presumably there is some form of cellular or chemical memory storage involved.

  2. If I were involved in this piece of research I would lose sleep knowing that these worms would not forget what I had done to them and the heads they grew back would be full of dark thoughts of revenge and the patience to wait it out until the glorious and bloody day when the worms will turn.

  3. This appears to be indicating some kind of cellular memory. Is there any possibility that this is related to reported behaviour/character changes in transplant patients? Intriguing thought …

  4. Over aproximately every seven year period all the cells in the human body are replaced by new ones, yet we retain our childhood memories; not quite the same as being topped of course, but intriguing nonetheless. Well, I think so anyway!

    • In reply to #10 by Stafford Gordon:

      Over aproximately every seven year period all the cells in the human body are replaced by new ones, yet we retain our childhood memories; not quite the same as being topped of course, but intriguing nonetheless. Well, I think so anyway!

      I like your thinking. This could pose some problems for the criminal justice system though, as it would be patently unfair to keep a collective of cells locked up for the crimes of the completely different collective that they have replaced. Do the echoes of our memories make us the same people we used to be? I can only hope not as, if memory serves, I used to be a bit of a git.

    • In reply to #10 by Stafford Gordon:

      Over aproximately every seven year period all the cells in the human body are replaced by new ones, yet we retain our childhood memories…..

      Does that include brain cells?? I know almost nothing about biology but I was taught in school a long time ago that nerve cells do not replicate like the other cells in our body. Or they replicate until we’re fully grown and then stop?…. How does this work?

  5. Reply button busted again:

    NearlyNakedApe # 10.

    I think I recall Steven Pinker pointing out that although the brain cells are renewed our “memories” remain, and no one as yet understands how that happens; so, the brain is no exception in the renewal stakes. But I could be wrong; I often am. Or, according to my wife I always am!

  6. NearlyNakedApe # 10.

    Take two: I think at one time it was thought that once nerves were damaged beyond a certain point they couldn’t repair or be reapaired, but now stem cell replacement does just that.

    Again, I could be wrong and, be in for a Dawkins dump! He has an unnerving way of suddenly poking his head round the metaphorical web site corner and ticking people off.

  7. Neurons replacing themselves is not the same as the worm scenario (if indeed the experiment is flawless). Even if there are more than two states that a single ‘bit’ of memory can exist in, as long as the state is preserved when the neuron is replaced then the memory will ‘replay’ with fidelity.
    The worm experiment can only comment on where the memory is stored, not the mechanism of how. They might propose just to keep cutting and see how much and what needs to go to make them forget.

    • In reply to #17 by mccuepaul1:

      …They might propose just to keep cutting and see how much and what needs to go to make them forget.

      A sort of holographic memory would obviate the need for long-term memories to relate to specific neural locations. I think that should be considered in choosing where to cut the poor worm!

      (I am aware that brain damage can cause humans to loose all memories that would have been formed over a particular period, but apart from that I wonder whether local brain damage causes any sub-set of long-term memories to be lost. If not, would that suggest that humans might also have holographic memories?)

  8. There is a reference to this study in the week’s New Scientist under the “In Brief” section. There is no mention of the transmission of memory however. I’m not sure why this aspect would have been omitted as its certainly the most surprising finding. Perhaps there is doubt about the results or maybe it is just due to lack of space on the part of the magazine.

Leave a Reply