Monday, 21 May 2018

going native, going naïve

In a surprising experimental set-up that could possibly pose a challenge—and surely many nuances—to the commonly-held theory that memories and learned behaviour resides in the strength of the synapses (sort of a non-space, a gap when one thinks about it), researchers found that non-coding ribonucleic acid (RNA) transplanted from an acclimated snail to a non-acclimated, naïve snail can seemingly carry and impart training from one to the other.
Long term memories may have an epigenetic—the way the expressions of genes are regulated—component to them, while many are sceptical of the experiments claims, which makes sense to a degree on a chemical level as the transplanted RNA would be primed to encode for a stress-reaction and maybe such primal responses are meant to be contagious and empathetic regardless of direct exposure. No snails were harmed in this experiment but the technique and theory behind it references the research conducted by biologist and animal psychologist James V McConnell in the 1950s and 1960s in which flatworms were trained to solve a maze and then fed to untrained individuals who seemed to take on the knowledge and experience of those they’d just incorporated. Made into fodder for speculative fiction, McConnell’s unorthodox beliefs in the nature and fungibility of memory also made him on the targets of the Unabomber in the mid-1980s, surviving the attack but suffering hearing-loss.