By Emir Turkes

The Elusive Engram: An Experiment in Memory Implantation

November 23rd, 2013 in Article, News 1 comment

The human hippocampus, considered a key area for memory formation. Immunocytochemical staining for calcium-binding proteins is used in this horizontal section to differentiate major areas. Source –

With each passing minute, multitudes of memories surge through our minds as we recollect past experiences and encode new ones. Since the dawn of introspective thought, humans have wondered where such experiences might be encoded, if a physical encoding is even possible [1]. Fast forward to the 20th century and we now have pioneering works from the likes of Carl Lashley, acclaimed for his application of the term “engram” to describe a physical location and mechanism by which a specific memory is encoded, a memory trace so to speak [3]. Lashley’s theories have proved highly influential (though his rat lesion methodologies have been criticized [2]), inspiring countless other neuroscientists such as Richard F. Thompson [6] and Howard Eichembaum [7] to embark on the quest to find the engram.

Fast forward to the 21st century and we continue to see groundbreaking work in engram research. A most recent study published in July 2013 titled “Creating a False Memory in the Hippocampus” [5] provides strong evidence for a functional memory engram through a novel memory implantation procedure. The study was conducted by the Susumu Tonegawa’s RIKEN-MIT Lab, which seeks to uncover the neural mechanisms underlying learning and memory. In this experiment, Tonegawa’s team of neuroscientists were able to implant artificial memories into the brains of mice using optogenetics, a technology in which the activity of specific neurons can be modulated by exposure to certain wavelengths of light. The specific memory manipulated in this study was a conditioned fear response to a mild electrical foot shock.


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Are carbohydrates holding us back from our true potential? Exploring the possibilities of a ketogenic diet.

October 15th, 2013 in Article, Pop Culture 0 comments

An example ketogenic meal. Source –

It is hard to avoid carbohydrates in the world we live in today. Since the industrial age 100-200 years ago, factories have been able to produce large quantities of sugar and white flour to feed the masses. Really though, foods high in carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, rice, and potatoes) have only been available to us since the rise of agriculture, approximately 5-10,000 years ago. Prior to that, humans assumed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle where our diets consisted primarily of animal products and low starch vegetables; this was basically whatever we could find in nature without growing ourselves. According to Stephen D Phinney, simply due to circumstance, it is likely that the hunter-gatherer era of humans followed a high fat, moderate-high protein, and very low carbohydrate diet [6]. This has become known as a ketogenic diet, named after ketosis, a natural metabolic state the body undergoes when carbohydrates are nearly eliminated from one’s diet.