Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Paycheck

Paycheck, a pretty good movie adaptation from a short story by Phillip Dick, depicts how memory can be selectively edited, something long thought to be science fiction until now.

"The father’s advice led the son, eventually, to a substance called PKMzeta. In a series of studies, Dr. Sacktor’s lab found that this molecule was present and activated in cells precisely when they were put on speed-dial by a neighboring neuron.

In fact, the PKMzeta molecules appeared to herd themselves, like Army Rangers occupying a small peninsula, into precisely the fingerlike connections among brain cells that were strengthened. And they stayed there, indefinitely, like biological sentries...

Dr. Fenton had already devised a clever way to teach animals strong memories for where things are located. He teaches them to move around a small chamber to avoid a mild electric shock to their feet. Once the animals learn, they do not forget. Placed back in the chamber a day later, even a month later, they quickly remember how to avoid the shock and do so.

But when injected — directly into their brain — with a drug called
ZIP that interferes with PKMzeta, they are back to square one, almost immediately."

To see how the memory molecule works, click on the NYT graphic below.

"Cypher: I know what you're thinking, 'cause right now I'm thinking the same thing. Actually, I've been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn't I take the BLUE pill?
Morpheus: The pill you took is part of a trace program. It's designed to disrupt your input/output carrier signal so we can pinpoint your location.
Neo: What does that mean?
Cypher: It means fasten your seat belt Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye-bye."
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