Excerpt: In a mind-control experiment that demonstrates the astonishing power of new neuroscience tools, MIT researchers planted a false memory in the mind of a mouse using genetic techniques that allow them to trigger specific brain cells with light. The scientists were able to make the mouse recall something that had never occurred—having its foot painfully zapped when in the familiar red chamber—and react in fear exactly like it would have in response to a real memory.
The MIT experiments relied on a technique called optogenetics, which uses genetic manipulation and laser light to activate specific brain cells with remarkable precision. Because researchers can’t ask a mouse what’s on its mind, the researchers took advantage of a memory they could measure. When a mouse recalls and anticipates the unpleasant experience of receiving electric foot shocks, it freezes in place.