Recording and playing back memories has long been a staple of science fiction novels and movies where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face explodes on Mars. And now, scientists have finally made that dream happen by creating a brain implant that can backup memories. Filthy, filthy rats memories, to be specific.
Now, the implant doesn’t remember anything too detailed: the researchers behind the implants taught rats to remember which of two levers they’d previously pushed in their cage to get a drink of water. The implant recorded the impulses between two areas of the hippocampus (CA1 and CA3) which are involved in storing long-term memory. Then the rats were given a drug that interrupted signals between the two areas, meaning the rats couldn’t remember which lever they’d pressed before. Then, the scientists used the implant to replicate the signals, restoring the rat’s memory and letting it get the water.
So we’re really just talking about recording some basic rat nerve impulses, which isn’t quite up the level of the technology we saw in, say, Strange Days. (Although there is something rodent-like about Juliette Lewis, isn’t there?)
While the researchers are planning on testing the process out on primates, it’s important to note that human memories are far more detailed than the kind we’re talking about here. Also, you would need to record memories before playing them back and the researchers point out that with people with severe memory loss, the signals may be too weak to record. But at least we could probably make them remember how to get their own dang water.