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Tsuumi Sound System in concert

Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System performed Saturday at the Arneson River Theater at La Villita, San Antonio, Texas.

Tonight’s music video is “Altitude” from Finland’s Tsuumi Sound System, from their album Floating Letters.

Tsuumi Sound System is one of Finland’s internationally most notable modern folk music bands. Rooted in Nordic folk traditions, classical idioms and innovative modern ideas, this eight-piece band draws their strength from a huge mixture of influences. Besides the recording work and the award-winning compositions, their energetic show has enthused a public of all ages from Scandinavia to Sicily.

I went to the International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, Texas last Saturday, where I saw an amazing, global selection of talented musicians at a completely free outdoor event. This festival was a gift to everyone that attended and the musicians as well. It’s publicly funded and has suffered from budget cuts in recent years, so if you’re listening San Antonio city council: keep this music going. And if you’re anywhere near San Antonio next September I hope I’ll see you there.

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and MIT have used light to teach mice to suppress a fearful memory in favor of a more pleasurable one, according to Psypost.

‘There is some evidence from pyschotherapy that positive memory can suppress memories of negative experience,’ [Lead inveatigator Susumu] Tonegawa says, referring to treatments that reduce clinical depression by helping patients recall positive memories. ‘We have shown how the emotional valence of memories can be switched on the cellular level.’ […] Tonegawa explains that the contextual information about these events – where and when they happened – is recorded in the brain’s hippocampus, whereas the emotional component of the memory is stored separately, in a brain region called the amygdala. “The amygdala can store information with either a positive or negative valence, and associate it with a memory,” Tonegawa explains.

Last year, Tonegawa and his colleagues reported that by artificially activating the small set of cells that stored a specific memory in a mouse, they could create a new, false memory. In that study, the team made the cells that stored a memory of a safe environment sensitive to light, so that they could be manipulated by the researchers. Switching on those cells while subjecting the animal to a mild shock in a new environment caused the mouse to fear the original environment, even though it had had no unpleasant experiences there.

In those experiments, the scientists had caused the mice to associate a neutral setting with fear. Now Tonegawa and his colleagues wanted to see if he could alter a memory that was already associated with emotion. Once an animal had developed fear of a place, could the memory of that place be made pleasurable instead?

To find out, the scientists began by placing male mice in a chamber that delivered a mild shock. As the mouse formed of memory of this dangerous place, Tonegawa’s team used a method it had previously developed to introduce a light-sensitive protein into the cells that stored the information. By linking the production of the light-sensitive protein to the activation of a gene that is switched on as memories are encoded, they targeted light-sensitivity to the cells that stored the newly formed memory.

The mice were removed from the chamber and a few days later, the scientists artificially reactivated the memory by shining a light into the cells holding the memory of the original place. The animals responded by stopping their explorations and freezing in place, indicating they were afraid.

Now the scientists wanted to see if they could overwrite the fear and give the mice positive associations to the chamber, despite their negative experience there. So they placed the mice in a new environment, where instead of a shock they had the opportunity to interact with female mice. As they did so, the researchers activated their fear memory-storing neurons with light. The scientists activated only one subset of memory-storing neurons at a time – either those in the context-storing hippocampus or those in the emotion-storing amygdala. They then tested the emotional association of the memory of the original chamber by giving mice the opportunity to move away from an environment in which the memory was artificially triggered.

[…] ‘So the animal acquired a pleasure memory,’ Tonegawa says. ‘But what happened to the original fear memory? Is it still there or is it gone?’ When they put the animals back in the original chamber, where they had experienced the unpleasant shock, the animals showed less fear and more exploratory and reward-seeking behaviors. ‘The original fear memory is significantly changed,’ Tonegawa concludes.

[…] In an accompanying News & Views article in Nature, Tomonori Takeuchi and Richard G.M. Morris of the University of Edinburgh, state, ‘What is so intriguing about this study is that the memory representations associated with a place are dissected into their network components and, rather than re-exposing the animals to the training situation to achieve a change, light is used to selectively reactivate the representation of the “where” component of a memory and then change its “what” association.’

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Photo by Kit O’Connell under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and Occupy.com.

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