Scientists Transferred Memories From One Sea Snail To Another—And We’re Now Living In A ‘Black Mirror’ Episode

For years now, scientists have been studying sea snails and their cognitive processes. In the words of, the process that keeps sea snails alive mirrors how we humans stay alive– their nerves “transmit impulses much the way ours do.” 

The clincher here is that scientists from UCLA officially succeeded in transferring memories from one snail to the other. And this research could potentially be applied to humans. On Tuesday, the Biomedical Journal tweeted, “A team transplanted #memories by transferring RNA from one snail into another.  The snails were trained to develop a defensive reaction. When the RNA was inserted into snails that had not undergone this process, they behaved as if they had been sensitized.”

According to BBC, some snails were trained to have a defensive reaction. When the RNA (ribonucleic) from these snails was implanted into snails that had not been trained to have a defensive reaction, they behaved as if they had been “sensitized”. 

According to The Guardian, the experiment proves that parts of our memory are stored in our RNA, rather than just in brain cells. However, it all comes back to the specific kinds of memory we’re talking about. David Glanzman, a neurobiologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, tells the outlet, “What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the United States.” Glanzman added that the snails were not hurt in the process of transferring these memories. 

Where could this research lead? BBC reports that researchers hope they can apply the knowledge gained through these experiments to alleviate diseases like Alzheimer’s and PTSD. 

H/T: BBC, Futurism, The Guardian