When our memory fails us…such as not remembering a person’s name…it’s frustrating, but imagine how incredibly advanced it would be, if someday there’s a way to manipulate your brain to recall memories or to help those suffering with epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
Dr. Steve Ramirez is Boston-based neuroscientist, whose breakthrough research into memory manipulation, is starting to provide some answers and attracting national attention.
Ramirez, who completed his Ph.D. at MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department, recently spoke with WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay about his research that’s appearing on the National Geographic program called, BREAKTHROUGHS: DECODING THE BRAIN.
Within his research, Ramirez studies the brains of mice to find individual memories, and looks for ways to tinker with memories of the brain or what he refers to as a “mental time machine.” He tells Seay, “first we find the brain cells that hold onto one particular memory, and using techniques we can genetically engineer those cells to respond to brief pulses of light. From there, we shoot light into the brain, reactivate those cells, and thereby reactivate, erase, and implant memories.”
Ramirez explains that the breakthrough in his research shows, “the proof of principle that we can go in and identify individual memories of the brain, but also commandeer the machinery of the brain and force those memories to turn on and off such as the case with positive memories and negative memories in the realm of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression. “
According to Ramirez the goals of his research are twofold: to figure out how the brain gives rise to the seemingly ephemeral process of memory, and to predict what happens when specific pieces breakdown to impair cognition.
Ramirez is from Everett and teaches classes about all things brain. He has won multiple teaching awards at MIT.
To Listen to the the entire interview with Dr. Ramirez and WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay click on the audio file above.