Concept of fairness

The evolution of cooperation is one of the most important transitions in evolutionary history. The factors favoring cooperation over selfish interests have kept biologist busy over the last century. This “old” paper examined “inequality aversion” or the “sense of fairness” in brown capuchin monkey as a potential factor promoting group cohesion and cooperation.

The experiment was rather simple. The researchers challenged two monkeys (who could observe each other) with a simple task, but rewarded them unequal. One monkey consistently got a low quality reward, while the other one always got a high quality reward for exactly the same amount of work. Watch what happens!

the paper can be found here

the video can be found here

 

Planting false memories

I stumbled upon a pretty cool paper recently published in Science: “Creating a False Memory in the Hippocampus”. A group of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were able to plant false memory directly into mice brains, making them afraid of places they had no reason to fear.

They used a nifty technique called optogenetics to implant the false fear memory. Using viruses as carrier, the scientists were able to inserted a light sensitive protein switch (microbial opsin) directly into neurones which are known to play a key role during memory formation and are particularly active during the exploration of new territories.

The researcher allowed the mice to explore an area, lets call it place 1, without any experimental manipulation. On the following day they reactivated the neurones which were active during the exploration of place 1 and applied a small electric shock at the same time. When placing the mice back into place 1 mice showed a place specific and characteristic fear response without ever experiencing harm in place 1.

We will never know what exactly the mice “remembered”, but I think this is one further step in understanding the complex process of memory formation demonstrating the power of optogenetic tools in neuroscience. However, thinking about the potential consequences if this method is further developed feels scary! An interesting paper if you have access to it!

The paper can be found here

And further information on optogenetics can be downloaded here