Transplanting foreign languages into memory: myth or reality?

Most of us want to speak at least a few foreign languages fluently. At present achieving such a task is a mammoth undertaking what with a lot of energy and time required to learn them. However, the future holds amazing developments for those who want to speak any languages at a native speaker's level.

Transferring memories may sound like an impossible feat, yet that is just what scientists in California recently appeared to have achieved with the humble snail. 

The widely publicised work has raised questions about whether our own memories can too be transferred from person to person, or from person to machine. Indeed, the prospect that any person's life experiences could be downloaded to machine has become an increasingly serious subject for discussion in recent years.

In the recent California study, scientists gave the tails of one group of marine snails electric shocks, causing their defensive reaction to become more pronounced. They then transferred genetic material called ribonucleic acid (RNA) from this group to individuals that had not received the shocks. The startling finding was that this second group began to show a similar defensive response, as though the memory of the shocks had been transferred.

Scientists went even further and tried transplanting memories to rats stimulating a part of the brain called hippocampus, with successful results. According to Miller B.E., & Holt, G.L., who published their discovery in the Journal of Biological Psychology, 19(1), 4-9, task specific memory, stored in RNA, was transferred from one rat to another. Surprisingly, memory molecules that can be transplanted may reside not only in the brain, but also in the liver.

Even though it does not sound like an actual discovery of how to transplant the knowledge of a foreign language from one person into another, these are clearly the first steps in accomplishing this truly marvellous technological feat and in the foreseeable future we will definitely hear of more amazing discoveries in this field and... who knows, maybe we will live long enough to try these language memory transplants outselves.  


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