American scientists from the University of California was the first to carry out the transplantation of consciousness among living beings.
The sea hare is a well understood model species in neurobiological studies, with a pedigree reaching back to Nobel laureate E. R. Kandel's research on learning and memory in the 1960s.
When asked if this process would be conducive to the transplant of memories laid down through life experiences, Prof Glanzman was uncertain, but he expressed optimism that the greater understanding of memory storage would lead to a greater opportunity to explore different aspects of memory. But scientists have been studying sea snails for a long time, and they know an bad lot about how the organisms learn. While this component hasn't been yet discovered, the process includes epigenetic modification.
And RNA is also involved in the process of forming long-term memories.
The breakthrough was achieved with California sea hare snails whereby one was trained to perform a certain action, while another was untrained. This isn't as hard as it sounds - they simply applied a mild, but still unpleasant, electric shock to the tails of a sea snail called Aplysia californica. During each of two sessions separated by 24 hours, biologists five times he touched the electrodes to the foot of snails every 20 minutes. When the researchers subsequently tapped the snails, they found those that had been given the shocks displayed a defensive contraction that lasted an average of 50 seconds, a simple type of learning known as "sensitization".
In the experiment's next step, the researchers gauged the withdrawal reflex by tapping both snails that had been trained, or sensitized, in this way and a control group that didn't receive the shock treatment.
What happened next was wonderful.
Meanwhile, the untrained snails who had received RNA from untrained donors did not exhibit any change in their defensive response.
Typically when we think of memory, the consensus is that memories are encoded in connections between our brain cells, but neurobiologist David Glanzman is of the opinion that RNA actually holds the key. The researchers also tested some of the same techniques on snail neurons in a petri dish.
Traditionally, long-term memories were thought to be stored at the brain's synapses, the junctions between nerve cells. Another camp believed memories were stored in the nuclei of neurons.
In the field of neuroscience, it has always been thought that memories are stored in synapses.
"In a field like this which is so full of dogma, where we are waiting for people to retire so we can move on, we need as many new ideas as possible", he said.
"These basic science approaches to explore this are very, very useful for identifying some of the foundation building blocks, if you will, of how this might contribute to the more complicated memories that you think of in humans", said Newbern.
For decades, researchers have tried to pinpoint how, when, and where memories form.
"What we are talking about are very specific kinds of memories, not the sort that says what happened to me on my fifth birthday, or who is the president of the United States."