An Octopus Party, Rebuilding the GI System (Abstract Science: Sept. 17-21)
Do memories really shape your identity, can we regrow human esophageal tissue, and how scientists are influencing the social life of octopuses.
(Neuroscience News, 9/19/2018, The Conversation)
Researchers say we constantly create false memories to help us achieve the identity we want. Substantial research has shown that memories shape a person’s identity. People with profound forms of amnesia typically also lose their identity. Identity is often not a truthful representation of who we are anyway – even if we have an intact memory. Research shows that we don’t access and use all available memories when creating personal narratives. It is becoming increasingly clear that, at any given moment, we tend to choose and pick what to remember with realizing it. When we create personal narratives, we rely on a psychological screening mechanism, dubbed the monitoring system, which labels certain mental concepts as memories, but not others. Concepts that are rather vivid and rich in detail and emotion – episodes we can re-experience – are more likely to be marked as memories. These then pass a “plausibility test” carried out by a similar monitoring system which tells whether the events fit within the general personal history.
(Science Daily, 9/20/2018, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center)
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you burnt your esophagus so bad you needed it replaced? Scientists working to bioengineer the entire human gastrointestinal system in a laboratory now report using pluripotent stem cells to grow human esophageal organoids. This is the first-time scientists have been able to grow human esophageal tissue entirely from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which can form any tissue type in the body.
(Science Magazine, 9/20/2018, Frankie Schembri)
Octopuses are almost entirely antisocial, except when they're mating. Scientists who study them must house them separately, so they don't kill or eat each other. However, octopuses given the drug known as MDMA (or ecstasy, E, Molly or several other slang terms) appear to be changed fish, wanting to spend more time together and even hugging each other. The research team placed four California two-spot octopuses) in a tank containing a liquefied version of ecstasy, which the animals absorbed through their gills. Next, the scientists placed the octopuses individually into a three-chambered water tank for 30 minutes. One of the tanks was empty, one contained a plastic action figure—an object that might pique the octopus’s curiosity—and one contained a female or male laboratory-bred octopus under a cage. While under the influence, all four spent several minutes longer with the other octopus than in the solitary chamber or the one with the interesting object. The findings suggest that, despite the huge evolutionary gulf that separates us, humans and octopuses appear to have similar brain chemistry guiding their social behaviors.
---Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola