If you’ve ever wondered what a memory forming looks like, a team of scientists in New York can tell you. Using advanced imaging techniques, they recorded video of molecules morphing into memories.

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Studying neurons is trickier than probing a balloon without breaking it because they’re so easily damaged. Yet scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City managed a remarkable feat recently with a live mouse.

The team put green fluorescent protein tags on specific messenger RNA molecules in the mouse brain that play a key role in making memories. Then they stimulated neurons from the mouse’s hippocampus and watched the molecules travel around, forming memories in real time, the university said in a press release. Hat tip to Dvice’s Robin Burks.

While we can now see memories form, we still don’t know exactly what they are although stimulating the hippocampus does help with recall. The research was led by Robert Singer, an Albert Einstein College of Medicine professor and co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center. Singer‘s team just published two papers about their findings in the journal Science (abstract and abstract).

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Perhaps this discovery will one day lead to better treatments for conditions that impact our ability to remember. Yeshiva University posted a brief black-and-white video that shows the tagged brain molecules in motion. Not surprisingly, they move around like mice scurrying on a track.

Image: Confocal microscopy of a mouse brain. Scientists recently tagged mouse brain molecules and could see memories as they formed. Credit: Zeiss Microscopy