Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Memories that can survive decapitation.

Seriously, Science?By Seriously ScienceJuly 15, 2013 7:00 PM
2938978686_077297bb79.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Photo: flickr/Rodrigo Diaz Lupanow

If one animal could become an honorary superhero, my vote would be for the planarian. This flatworm has truly astonishing powers of regeneration. Accidentally cut off your planarian's head? No problem! It will grow a new one ... and its old head will grow a new body, giving you two pets instead of one! But that's not all. According to this study, if you trained your original flatworm, both of the animals that result from cutting it in half will remember the training. That's right -- planarian memories can survive decapitation. Anyone out there know of an animal with a real-life superpower more awesome than that?

An automated training paradigm reveals long-term memory in planaria and its persistence through head regeneration. "Planarian flatworms are a popular system for research into the molecular mechanisms that enable these complex organisms to regenerate their entire body, including the brain. Classical data suggest that they may also be capable of long-term memory. Thus, the planarian system may offer the unique opportunity to study brain regeneration and memory in the same animal. To establish a system for the investigation of the dynamics of memory in a regenerating brain, we developed a computerized training and testing paradigm that avoided the many issues that confounded previous, manual attempts to train planaria. We then used this new system to train flatworms in an environmental familiarization protocol. We show that worms exhibit environmental familiarization, and that this memory persists for at least 14 days - long enough for the brain to regenerate. We further show that trained, decapitated planaria exhibit evidence of memory retrieval in a savings paradigm after regenerating a new head. Our work establishes a foundation for objective, high-throughput assays in this molecularly-tractable model system that will shed light on the fundamental interface between body patterning and stored memories. We propose planaria as a key emerging model species for mechanistic investigations of the encoding of specific memories in biological tissues. Moreover, this system is likely to have important implications for the biomedicine of stem cell-derived treatments of degenerative brain disorders in human adults."

decapitation.png

Related content: NCBI ROFL: Absolut memory distortions: alcohol placebos influence the misinformation effect.

NCBI ROFL: The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth: how belief in the Tooth Fairy can engender false memories.

NCBI ROFL: The more weed you smoke, the more f*cked up you get.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In