SCIENCE DOJO

END PUMPKIN SPICE

Science Dojo


Someone Asks a Stupid Question and a group of scientists has 20 min to answer it.

In this fall themed Science Dojo: 4 Neuroscientists, an artist, Steve and rocketbot try to bring and end to Pumpkin Spiced Everything in 20min or less. We don't know the question ahead of time and we aren't allowed to do any useful information searches. The conversation follows (Links and media are added post hoc for your viewing enjoyment):


thequestion
Joey B @joey.bears 6:02 PM
Thank you! Here we go!

It’s getting to be pumpkin spice season which means that everywhere is soon going to be serving nutmeg-flavored antifreeze. I would like to know what steps I can take to combat this obsession in 3 different ways:
1. I want my girlfriend to fear the pumpkin spice. What can I do to give her a type of pumpkin spice PTSD?
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
3. Amnesia. I want people to have a mass pumpkin spice amnesia so that they can finally taste the horrific evolution this once-proud flavor has taken.

theanswer
Dave Pena @dave.pena 
WHO CARES ABOUT PUMPKIN SPICE!!!???? I DO NOT CARE ABOUT PUMPKIN SPICE AT ALL.... Ok.. let's get past that... What Joey is really asking is about how far have neuroscientists come in being able to control the information that is stored in the networks of neurons in our brains. The answer is that we are REALLY on the cusp of being able to edit whatever we want in principle in the brain, we can make new memories, artificially activate old memories, and erase specific memories, and that is really just to start. If you think these techniques will never reach humans, you are lying to yourself. I can't tell you what it means for humans as a species to have that kind of control over what amounts to the essence of who you are, but it is not trivial.   The logic to our answers is as follows (THIS IS THE LAST MULTI-QUESTION, QUESTION BTW)  :
1. Aversion and PTSD: This is a pretty big topic and something I personally have studied for a long time. I think if you are reading this you've probably been food poisoned at some point in your life and you probably remember exactly what you did that day you ate that bad taco and ended up spending the night next to your toilet. This sort of memory turns out is the consequence of a general process that occurs when something emotionally arousing happens to you. Structures associated with the arousal engage in the memory process and change the content of what is stored and enhance the processes that store the memory. You probably can think of other examples of this... do you remember what you were doing when you found out Prince died (emotional)? What about the day before(not so much)?  Taking advantage of these processes you can very easily make someone remember that something they did was not desirable and have that association persist. The guys all agreed that pairing a pumpkin spiced item with what amounts to safe food poisoning would most times do the trick (Assuming you do not have an addiction to pumpkin spice). Let's be clear creating this sort of aversive association is NOT equivalent to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It's my opinion that PTSD is a pathology that occurs when you can't regulate aversive information zipping around your brain. This can be due to a bunch of factors including brain damage, inherited disposition, and just shear robustness of the aversive information. Anyway... we decided we didn't need to answer that part of the question....
2. How do we like Pumpkin Spice? This is a little more tricky... for me at least.. In a similar way that your brain engages structures when something is arousing and aversive an overlapping and also different set of structures are engaged when something arousing happens that you like (food, sex, rock and roll). Once upon a time it was said that the nucleus accumbens was the pleasure center of the brain... now we know that information being processed and encoded there is much more confusing and nuanced... try to make sense of this someone might hand you a Nobel Prize. What we all seem to agree on (in this chat) is that the nucleus accumbens plays a pivotal role in liking and wanting, if you got rid of it your ability to do this basic process would be disrupted. The guys from Duke mentioned Capturing Active Neuronal Ensembles (CANE), you will have to ask them how this is done because no one else seems to know about it. This bring us to our last and final question
3. How are memories encoded? How do you select and manipulate specific memories? These are the money questions in neuroscience and we have come a long way in the last twenty years in our understanding of how the brain stores and uses information. I'm not going to try to answer all of that here today... in this post... that's ridiculous. I will leave bits and pieces to future posts, instead I will focus on giving you an intuition on the long term storage of information in the brain as I know it. I think it is really easy to get lost in the weeds when you start talking about memory since memory is not one thing. The dojo scientists without conversation decided that we were talking about long term storage of pumpkin spice information, implicitly we honed in on the idea that information is encoded in the activity and connection of networks of neurons. A simple analogy (I hope) would be to imagine this sort of memory as being similar to cataloging the positions (states) of  marbles (neurons) in bag of a million marbles (network) and the totality of those positions (network state) is the memory. If you picked up a marble and slam it back into the bag (new information) all of the marbles would shift around in not so obvious ways. The new positions would define a new memory (new network state), networks of neurons unlike marbles have the interesting ability to retain those states and recreate those states when given an input that is similar to the input that created them. ANYWAY.... not every neuron in the brain is immediately or as importantly involved in the encoding any particular piece of information. Imagine the bag of marbles, the marbles furthest away would change positions very little. Most of the change and therefore information is stored in the position of only a few marbles. SOOOO... when you store any information, your brain slowly starts to minimize and lock in the number of neurons necessary to store that information this process is called consolidation. During that time those networks are very easily manipulated; we have been messing with memories in this period since the 50's. Whenever you access that information your brain is forced to incorporate new information (new states) into that process making some of that information susceptible to manipulation. Neuroscientists call this process reconsolidation. We effectively settled on identifying the pumpkin spice neurons by forcing people to remember pumpkin spice and then disrupting or killing the activated neurons. We couldn't figure out how to execute that plan on a large scale.  

thechat dojotable
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:00 PM
WELCOME EVERYONE TO

Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:00 PM
ninjadojobegin

Shawn @shawn 6:01 PM
how long did that take you Dave?
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:01 PM
Really trying to up the production value
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:01 PM
hahah awesome. they should have been scientists in lab coats
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:01 PM
singit
Joey B @joey.bears 6:01 PM
I feel fancy and such!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:01 PM
@joey.bears fire off your question when you are ready
Joey B @joey.bears 6:02 PM
Thank you! Here we go!

It’s getting to be pumpkin spice season which means that everywhere is soon going to be serving nutmeg-flavored antifreeze. I would like to know what steps I can take to combat this obsession in 3 different ways:
1. I want my girlfriend to fear the pumpkin spice. What can I do to give her a type of pumpkin spice PTSD?
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
3. Amnesia. I want people to have a mass pumpkin spice amnesia so that they can finally taste the horrific evolution this once-proud flavor has taken.
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:02 PM
We gotta go with a taste aversion for the first one!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:02 PM
ha
Shawn @shawn 6:03 PM
Oh man haha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:03 PM
😬
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
ok step 1 is easy ish
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:03 PM
Oh I was definitely thinking shock conditioning for #1
Shawn @shawn 6:03 PM
So I suppose we're not considering ethical issues
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
1. fear conditioning
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:03 PM
Pair the taste of pumpkin spice with aversive electrical shocks
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:03 PM
or just something that makes her sick
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
or... fox urine
Shawn @shawn 6:03 PM
Oh I think taste aversion would be better
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
taste aversion
is best
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:03 PM
This could very easily turn into a weird sex thing, though...

Joey B @joey.bears 6:03 PM
What if I don't want to taze or poison her?
Shawn @shawn 6:04 PM
Then you may be out of luck
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:04 PM
reinforcement
Joey B @joey.bears 6:04 PM
You know, something slightly less killy
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:04 PM
ipecac is pretty safe
Shawn @shawn 6:04 PM
Well it wouldn't be 'lethal' exactly just potentially
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:04 PM
you do something not preferable every time she drinks it
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:04 PM
Hmmm. Pair it with a bad taste.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:04 PM
just spike it
Joey B @joey.bears 6:04 PM
ah, the classic pumpkin ipecacolata

Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:05 PM
ok question 1 done
yes?
@all
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:05 PM
Yup!
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:05 PM
agreed
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:05 PM
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
Joey B @joey.bears 6:05 PM
sure!
Shawn @shawn 6:05 PM
Ya taste aversion via ipecac type substance
Just slice some part of the basal ganglia
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:05 PM
Hmm, with the surgery I feel we'll be damaging your sisters preferences for a lot of things...
Shawn @shawn 6:05 PM
the NA perhaps
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:06 PM
nucleus accumbens
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:06 PM
Nucleus accumbens core
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:06 PM
she will still eat it
she just wont care much
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:06 PM
I don't see a good way to make that pumpkin spice specific
Shawn @shawn 6:06 PM
something like

Joey B @joey.bears 6:06 PM
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:07 PM
We could get creative with the surgery option.
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:07 PM
Opto surgery
Shawn @shawn 6:07 PM
we could use something like CANE to capture the neurons in NA core then get them to express some receptor sensitive to a toxin
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:07 PM
Turn on the light whenever she reaches for pumpkin spice
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:07 PM
5 MINUTES HAVE PASSED

Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:07 PM
yeah gotta tag those pumpkin spike neurons
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:07 PM
they are active when she tastes it
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:07 PM
also could selective kill them through excitotoxicity, after you tag them
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:07 PM
this can knock out question 3
also
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:08 PM
How are we gonna tag these neurons?
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
Tag the pumpkin spice neurons then get them to express some exogenous receptors inject toxin kill them all
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:08 PM
Specifically to pumpkin spice?
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
@jonte.jones well its probably not possible to be 100% specific but mostly
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:08 PM
well we give the pumpkin spice and those neurons are active
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:08 PM
Find which neurons are wearing Ugg boots?
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
CANE relies on the neurons expressing c-fos
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:08 PM
lol
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:08 PM
😆
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
so you just put them in a neutral room and give them pumpkin spice then boom
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:09 PM
Put her in a sensory deprivation chamber, inject CANE, surround with pumpkin spice things
Joey B @joey.bears 6:09 PM
So, she might stop liking pumpkin spice and have an aversion towards orange balls?
Shawn @shawn 6:09 PM
it depends on how much overlap there is in the NA core representations
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:09 PM
I think this would mostly just get rid of her ability to derive pleasure from pumpkin spice
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:09 PM
True
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:09 PM
yea
Joey B @joey.bears 6:09 PM


Could he help isolate those neurons?
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:09 PM
Which, I think would still stop her from partaking of it.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:09 PM
and whatever else uses those same neurons...
Shawn @shawn 6:10 PM
t’s getting to be pumpkin spice season which means that everywhere is soon going to be serving nutmeg-flavored antifreeze. I would like to know what steps I can take to combat this obsession in 3 different ways:
1. I want my girlfriend to fear the pumpkin spice. What can I do to give her a type of pumpkin spice PTSD?
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
3. Amnesia. I want people to have a mass pumpkin spice amnesia so that they can finally taste the horrific evolution this once-proud flavor has taken.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:10 PM
so the answer to 2 is an NA based lesion
Shawn @shawn 6:10 PM
Indeed and we could be pretty specific
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:10 PM
..after identification of neurons
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:10 PM
whether it was pumpkin spice neuron specific
or not
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:11 PM
I think that's the best bet.
Shawn @shawn 6:11 PM
@jonte.jones well we could do it all in one shot
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:11 PM
I think we all agree
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:11 PM
with sensory deprivation and exposure to pumpkin spice
Gotcha, that makes sense
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:11 PM
bark bark 😬 Jonte
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:11 PM
ok question 3
Mass amnesia
Shawn @shawn 6:11 PM
Ohh
this is tough
Joey B @joey.bears 6:11 PM
but only to pumpkin spice...
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:12 PM
I once saw a recent Adam Sandler movie and forgot most of it, so...
Shawn @shawn 6:12 PM
we could do the same type of lesion to everyone individually but not very efficient for en masse
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:12 PM
10 MINUTES LEFT
Shawn @shawn 6:12 PM
So subliminal messaging in Adam Sandler movies
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:12 PM
So is the goal to actually erase the previous memories or just allow people to taste pumpkin spice without being biased by prior experience?
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:12 PM
We could become the thing that anti-vaxxers fear!
Use mass vaccinations to target areas with lesions
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:13 PM
well you can put something in a virus that is virulent
and then it will spread in en mass
Joey B @joey.bears 6:13 PM
@jeff both of those sound intriguing!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:13 PM
so that might be easiest
I guess the problem is those viruses would also need to infect the brain
and not kill you
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:13 PM
And also target speific memories
specific*
Shawn @shawn 6:14 PM
Well if no one is alive
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:14 PM
right
Shawn @shawn 6:14 PM
no one will have memories of pumpkin spice
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:14 PM
Maybe this could be more psychological rather than biological.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:14 PM
which we aren't even 100% sure what a memory is so claiming to target one specifically in a diverse population is dubious
Joey B @joey.bears 6:14 PM
Except I'll have the memories of having murdered everyone in the name of pumpkin spice...
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:14 PM
you could definitely get rid of the association using psychological methods only
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:14 PM
it is
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:14 PM
Take all pumpkin spice off of the market and initiate a campaign suggesting it never existed
Shawn @shawn 6:14 PM
@jeff we can target significant portions of memories
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:15 PM
there will always be pumpkin spice deniers
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:15 PM
reconsolidation
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:15 PM
But those deniers would be the outliers
We'll make pariahs of those who suggest it was ever real.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:15 PM
you can show someone something that reactivates the memory of pumpkin spices
Joey B @joey.bears 6:15 PM
like the berenstain bears thing!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:15 PM
and then destroy the memory
so then you do like a super bowl commercial
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:16 PM
you gotta make pumpkin spice uncool
and make people forget voluntarily
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:16 PM
You could just scare people away from it for long enough for them to forget what it tastes like.
Shawn @shawn 6:16 PM
But is this amnesia or just a reassociation
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:16 PM
then it'll back into fashion
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:17 PM
and a latent virus activates cell death somehow
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:17 PM
Put pumpkin spice in a pair of mom jeans and have it listen to Perry Como
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:17 PM
"Pumpkin spice linked to 15 forms of deadly cancer, study finds"
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:17 PM
@dave.pena good idea
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:17 PM
5 minutes left
Joey B @joey.bears 6:17 PM
I like that one!
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:17 PM
One weird trick that pumpkin spice HATES
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:17 PM
wait so where do we all stand on reconsolidation based disruption
@all
Shawn @shawn 6:18 PM
It could work but how do we do it?
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:18 PM
rocketbot not scientist but think you should see doctor
Joey B @joey.bears 6:18 PM
so, could I infect everyone and then later activate the virus? Like a Bond Villain?
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:18 PM
we gotta brand pumpkin spice as racist and womanizing
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:18 PM
How would the virus be activated by the action of reconsolidation?
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:18 PM
the only way to do it right is trigger the virus at the same time in everyone, like via the superbowl commercial that also triggers the association with pumpkin spice
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:19 PM
If I'm understanding your thing correctly @dave.pena
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:19 PM
can viruses be activated by things like heat?
Shawn @shawn 6:19 PM
@Steve.Ngo probably
Joey B @joey.bears 6:19 PM

Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:19 PM
We could activate the virus via a certain frequency of light emitted from the TV.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:19 PM
you can put them in containers that are
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:19 PM
or dreadd
Shawn @shawn 6:20 PM
could we release a gas in the atmosphere
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:20 PM
also I think people have been playing with ultrasound activated drug capsules
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:20 PM
I've seen light shined in the eyes of rats activate ChR2
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:20 PM
hahahaha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:20 PM
😬
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:20 PM
gas
i think thats a good one
Shawn @shawn 6:20 PM
like in Serenity
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:20 PM
2 minutes
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:20 PM
how about something like food?
Joey B @joey.bears 6:20 PM
Could we put something in the lattes that causes people to emit the gas to each other?
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:20 PM
Something in the water supply?
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:20 PM
can a ingested chemical active it?
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
like we put something in the water during superbowl
Shawn @shawn 6:21 PM
@Steve.Ngo probably - some chemical that diffuses into the brain and breaks some bounding molecule
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
that activates a receptor that we stuck in with a virus
show the commercial
Joey B @joey.bears 6:21 PM


Shawn @shawn 6:21 PM
like doxecycline or w/e its called
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
nothing happens
hahaha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:21 PM
Bark BArk 😆
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
45 SECONDS
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:21 PM
Attach it to a molecule that passes the blood-brain barrier by changing into something different entirely.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:21 PM
Yeah I like that
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:21 PM
so we make a virus, put it in pumpkin lattes
then later we switch it to the activator
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:22 PM
Gas everyone during the commercial, then kill it off later through the water supply or something.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:22 PM
TIME
TIME
TIME
Shawn @shawn 6:22 PM
Time
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:22 PM
DAMN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IT
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:22 PM
tIME
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:22 PM
TIME
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:22 PM
I thought we were going to solve this one
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:22 PM
so close
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:22 PM
We were close
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:22 PM
the whole en mass thing was tough
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
Just beyond our grasp
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:23 PM
I think we may need to loosen the web search ban
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
Hahaha!
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:23 PM
let's not lower the bar yet
Shawn @shawn 6:23 PM
I think we had a general idea of how to do it
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
We just needed to work out specifics
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:23 PM
we came close
like super villian style
Shawn @shawn 6:23 PM
its difficult to do en masse
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:23 PM
yes, all valid routes to investigate further
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
I was hoping it'd involve tampering with those abysmal Doritos commercials during the superbowl.
Joey B @joey.bears 6:23 PM
I thought we did solve it, everyone farts out a pumpkin spice memory-killing virus during the super bowl which gets activated during a commercial like a bond villain and then I deactivate it with the Batman Microwave Emitter
Shawn @shawn 6:24 PM
haha
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:24 PM
Most things can be solved with the plot of The Dark Knight.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:24 PM
I think superbowl commercial
reconsolidation
then timing that with disruption
was kinda hard
for us
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:25 PM
im sure a ton of pumpkin latte drinkers do not watch the super bowl
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:25 PM
ok this is going to be a pain in the ass to summarize
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:25 PM
What do they watch? New Girl?
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:25 PM
we'd be missing a whole portion
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:25 PM
rocketbot not scientist but think you should see doctor
Shawn @shawn 6:25 PM
I think you'd have to pull off something like they did in Serenity
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:25 PM
what did they do?
Shawn @shawn 6:26 PM
They had atmospheric release of mood stabilizers
Joey B @joey.bears 6:26 PM
They killed off one of the greatest characters in sci-fi history...
Shawn @shawn 6:26 PM
haha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:26 PM
😬
Joey B @joey.bears 6:26 PM
Rest in peace Wash
Shawn @shawn 6:26 PM
RIP indeed
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:27 PM
#DicksOutForWash
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:27 PM
ok move back to waiting room
Shawn @shawn 6:27 PM

In this fall themed Science Dojo: 4 Neuroscientists, an artist, Steve and rocketbot try to bring and end to Pumpkin Spiced Everything in 20min or less. We don't know the question ahead of time and we aren't allowed to do any useful information searches. The conversation follows (Links and media are added post hoc for your viewing enjoyment):


thequestion
Joey B @joey.bears 6:02 PM
Thank you! Here we go!

It’s getting to be pumpkin spice season which means that everywhere is soon going to be serving nutmeg-flavored antifreeze. I would like to know what steps I can take to combat this obsession in 3 different ways:
1. I want my girlfriend to fear the pumpkin spice. What can I do to give her a type of pumpkin spice PTSD?
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
3. Amnesia. I want people to have a mass pumpkin spice amnesia so that they can finally taste the horrific evolution this once-proud flavor has taken.

theanswer
Dave Pena @dave.pena 
WHO CARES ABOUT PUMPKIN SPICE!!!???? I DO NOT CARE ABOUT PUMPKIN SPICE AT ALL.... Ok.. let's get past that... What Joey is really asking is about how far have neuroscientists come in being able to control the information that is stored in the networks of neurons in our brains. The answer is that we are REALLY on the cusp of being able to edit whatever we want in principle in the brain, we can make new memories, artificially activate old memories, and erase specific memories, and that is really just to start. If you think these techniques will never reach humans, you are lying to yourself. I can't tell you what it means for humans as a species to have that kind of control over what amounts to the essence of who you are, but it is not trivial.   The logic to our answers is as follows (THIS IS THE LAST MULTI-QUESTION, QUESTION BTW)  :
1. Aversion and PTSD: This is a pretty big topic and something I personally have studied for a long time. I think if you are reading this you've probably been food poisoned at some point in your life and you probably remember exactly what you did that day you ate that bad taco and ended up spending the night next to your toilet. This sort of memory turns out is the consequence of a general process that occurs when something emotionally arousing happens to you. Structures associated with the arousal engage in the memory process and change the content of what is stored and enhance the processes that store the memory. You probably can think of other examples of this... do you remember what you were doing when you found out Prince died (emotional)? What about the day before(not so much)?  Taking advantage of these processes you can very easily make someone remember that something they did was not desirable and have that association persist. The guys all agreed that pairing a pumpkin spiced item with what amounts to safe food poisoning would most times do the trick (Assuming you do not have an addiction to pumpkin spice). Let's be clear creating this sort of aversive association is NOT equivalent to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It's my opinion that PTSD is a pathology that occurs when you can't regulate aversive information zipping around your brain. This can be due to a bunch of factors including brain damage, inherited disposition, and just shear robustness of the aversive information. Anyway... we decided we didn't need to answer that part of the question....
2. How do we like Pumpkin Spice? This is a little more tricky... for me at least.. In a similar way that your brain engages structures when something is arousing and aversive an overlapping and also different set of structures are engaged when something arousing happens that you like (food, sex, rock and roll). Once upon a time it was said that the nucleus accumbens was the pleasure center of the brain... now we know that information being processed and encoded there is much more confusing and nuanced... try to make sense of this someone might hand you a Nobel Prize. What we all seem to agree on (in this chat) is that the nucleus accumbens plays a pivotal role in liking and wanting, if you got rid of it your ability to do this basic process would be disrupted. The guys from Duke mentioned Capturing Active Neuronal Ensembles (CANE), you will have to ask them how this is done because no one else seems to know about it. This bring us to our last and final question
3. How are memories encoded? How do you select and manipulate specific memories? These are the money questions in neuroscience and we have come a long way in the last twenty years in our understanding of how the brain stores and uses information. I'm not going to try to answer all of that here today... in this post... that's ridiculous. I will leave bits and pieces to future posts, instead I will focus on giving you an intuition on the long term storage of information in the brain as I know it. I think it is really easy to get lost in the weeds when you start talking about memory since memory is not one thing. The dojo scientists without conversation decided that we were talking about long term storage of pumpkin spice information, implicitly we honed in on the idea that information is encoded in the activity and connection of networks of neurons. A simple analogy (I hope) would be to imagine this sort of memory as being similar to cataloging the positions (states) of  marbles (neurons) in bag of a million marbles (network) and the totality of those positions (network state) is the memory. If you picked up a marble and slam it back into the bag (new information) all of the marbles would shift around in not so obvious ways. The new positions would define a new memory (new network state), networks of neurons unlike marbles have the interesting ability to retain those states and recreate those states when given an input that is similar to the input that created them. ANYWAY.... not every neuron in the brain is immediately or as importantly involved in the encoding any particular piece of information. Imagine the bag of marbles, the marbles furthest away would change positions very little. Most of the change and therefore information is stored in the position of only a few marbles. SOOOO... when you store any information, your brain slowly starts to minimize and lock in the number of neurons necessary to store that information this process is called consolidation. During that time those networks are very easily manipulated; we have been messing with memories in this period since the 50's. Whenever you access that information your brain is forced to incorporate new information (new states) into that process making some of that information susceptible to manipulation. Neuroscientists call this process reconsolidation. We effectively settled on identifying the pumpkin spice neurons by forcing people to remember pumpkin spice and then disrupting or killing the activated neurons. We couldn't figure out how to execute that plan on a large scale.  

thechat dojotable
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:00 PM
WELCOME EVERYONE TO

Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:00 PM
ninjadojobegin

Shawn @shawn 6:01 PM
how long did that take you Dave?
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:01 PM
Really trying to up the production value
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:01 PM
hahah awesome. they should have been scientists in lab coats
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:01 PM
singit
Joey B @joey.bears 6:01 PM
I feel fancy and such!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:01 PM
@joey.bears fire off your question when you are ready
Joey B @joey.bears 6:02 PM
Thank you! Here we go!

It’s getting to be pumpkin spice season which means that everywhere is soon going to be serving nutmeg-flavored antifreeze. I would like to know what steps I can take to combat this obsession in 3 different ways:
1. I want my girlfriend to fear the pumpkin spice. What can I do to give her a type of pumpkin spice PTSD?
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
3. Amnesia. I want people to have a mass pumpkin spice amnesia so that they can finally taste the horrific evolution this once-proud flavor has taken.
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:02 PM
We gotta go with a taste aversion for the first one!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:02 PM
ha
Shawn @shawn 6:03 PM
Oh man haha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:03 PM
😬
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
ok step 1 is easy ish
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:03 PM
Oh I was definitely thinking shock conditioning for #1
Shawn @shawn 6:03 PM
So I suppose we're not considering ethical issues
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
1. fear conditioning
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:03 PM
Pair the taste of pumpkin spice with aversive electrical shocks
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:03 PM
or just something that makes her sick
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
or... fox urine
Shawn @shawn 6:03 PM
Oh I think taste aversion would be better
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:03 PM
taste aversion
is best
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:03 PM
This could very easily turn into a weird sex thing, though...

Joey B @joey.bears 6:03 PM
What if I don't want to taze or poison her?
Shawn @shawn 6:04 PM
Then you may be out of luck
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:04 PM
reinforcement
Joey B @joey.bears 6:04 PM
You know, something slightly less killy
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:04 PM
ipecac is pretty safe
Shawn @shawn 6:04 PM
Well it wouldn't be 'lethal' exactly just potentially
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:04 PM
you do something not preferable every time she drinks it
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:04 PM
Hmmm. Pair it with a bad taste.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:04 PM
just spike it
Joey B @joey.bears 6:04 PM
ah, the classic pumpkin ipecacolata

Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:05 PM
ok question 1 done
yes?
@all
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:05 PM
Yup!
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:05 PM
agreed
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:05 PM
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
Joey B @joey.bears 6:05 PM
sure!
Shawn @shawn 6:05 PM
Ya taste aversion via ipecac type substance
Just slice some part of the basal ganglia
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:05 PM
Hmm, with the surgery I feel we'll be damaging your sisters preferences for a lot of things...
Shawn @shawn 6:05 PM
the NA perhaps
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:06 PM
nucleus accumbens
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:06 PM
Nucleus accumbens core
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:06 PM
she will still eat it
she just wont care much
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:06 PM
I don't see a good way to make that pumpkin spice specific
Shawn @shawn 6:06 PM
something like

Joey B @joey.bears 6:06 PM
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:07 PM
We could get creative with the surgery option.
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:07 PM
Opto surgery
Shawn @shawn 6:07 PM
we could use something like CANE to capture the neurons in NA core then get them to express some receptor sensitive to a toxin
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:07 PM
Turn on the light whenever she reaches for pumpkin spice
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:07 PM
5 MINUTES HAVE PASSED

Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:07 PM
yeah gotta tag those pumpkin spike neurons
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:07 PM
they are active when she tastes it
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:07 PM
also could selective kill them through excitotoxicity, after you tag them
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:07 PM
this can knock out question 3
also
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:08 PM
How are we gonna tag these neurons?
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
Tag the pumpkin spice neurons then get them to express some exogenous receptors inject toxin kill them all
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:08 PM
Specifically to pumpkin spice?
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
@jonte.jones well its probably not possible to be 100% specific but mostly
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:08 PM
well we give the pumpkin spice and those neurons are active
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:08 PM
Find which neurons are wearing Ugg boots?
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
CANE relies on the neurons expressing c-fos
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:08 PM
lol
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:08 PM
😆
Shawn @shawn 6:08 PM
so you just put them in a neutral room and give them pumpkin spice then boom
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:09 PM
Put her in a sensory deprivation chamber, inject CANE, surround with pumpkin spice things
Joey B @joey.bears 6:09 PM
So, she might stop liking pumpkin spice and have an aversion towards orange balls?
Shawn @shawn 6:09 PM
it depends on how much overlap there is in the NA core representations
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:09 PM
I think this would mostly just get rid of her ability to derive pleasure from pumpkin spice
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:09 PM
True
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:09 PM
yea
Joey B @joey.bears 6:09 PM


Could he help isolate those neurons?
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:09 PM
Which, I think would still stop her from partaking of it.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:09 PM
and whatever else uses those same neurons...
Shawn @shawn 6:10 PM
t’s getting to be pumpkin spice season which means that everywhere is soon going to be serving nutmeg-flavored antifreeze. I would like to know what steps I can take to combat this obsession in 3 different ways:
1. I want my girlfriend to fear the pumpkin spice. What can I do to give her a type of pumpkin spice PTSD?
2. My sister goes bananas for pumpkin spice, what could I do to reduce this preferably through some sort of surgery?
3. Amnesia. I want people to have a mass pumpkin spice amnesia so that they can finally taste the horrific evolution this once-proud flavor has taken.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:10 PM
so the answer to 2 is an NA based lesion
Shawn @shawn 6:10 PM
Indeed and we could be pretty specific
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:10 PM
..after identification of neurons
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:10 PM
whether it was pumpkin spice neuron specific
or not
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:11 PM
I think that's the best bet.
Shawn @shawn 6:11 PM
@jonte.jones well we could do it all in one shot
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:11 PM
I think we all agree
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:11 PM
with sensory deprivation and exposure to pumpkin spice
Gotcha, that makes sense
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:11 PM
bark bark 😬 Jonte
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:11 PM
ok question 3
Mass amnesia
Shawn @shawn 6:11 PM
Ohh
this is tough
Joey B @joey.bears 6:11 PM
but only to pumpkin spice...
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:12 PM
I once saw a recent Adam Sandler movie and forgot most of it, so...
Shawn @shawn 6:12 PM
we could do the same type of lesion to everyone individually but not very efficient for en masse
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:12 PM
10 MINUTES LEFT
Shawn @shawn 6:12 PM
So subliminal messaging in Adam Sandler movies
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:12 PM
So is the goal to actually erase the previous memories or just allow people to taste pumpkin spice without being biased by prior experience?
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:12 PM
We could become the thing that anti-vaxxers fear!
Use mass vaccinations to target areas with lesions
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:13 PM
well you can put something in a virus that is virulent
and then it will spread in en mass
Joey B @joey.bears 6:13 PM
@jeff both of those sound intriguing!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:13 PM
so that might be easiest
I guess the problem is those viruses would also need to infect the brain
and not kill you
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:13 PM
And also target speific memories
specific*
Shawn @shawn 6:14 PM
Well if no one is alive
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:14 PM
right
Shawn @shawn 6:14 PM
no one will have memories of pumpkin spice
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:14 PM
Maybe this could be more psychological rather than biological.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:14 PM
which we aren't even 100% sure what a memory is so claiming to target one specifically in a diverse population is dubious
Joey B @joey.bears 6:14 PM
Except I'll have the memories of having murdered everyone in the name of pumpkin spice...
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:14 PM
you could definitely get rid of the association using psychological methods only
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:14 PM
it is
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:14 PM
Take all pumpkin spice off of the market and initiate a campaign suggesting it never existed
Shawn @shawn 6:14 PM
@jeff we can target significant portions of memories
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:15 PM
there will always be pumpkin spice deniers
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:15 PM
reconsolidation
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:15 PM
But those deniers would be the outliers
We'll make pariahs of those who suggest it was ever real.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:15 PM
you can show someone something that reactivates the memory of pumpkin spices
Joey B @joey.bears 6:15 PM
like the berenstain bears thing!
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:15 PM
and then destroy the memory
so then you do like a super bowl commercial
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:16 PM
you gotta make pumpkin spice uncool
and make people forget voluntarily
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:16 PM
You could just scare people away from it for long enough for them to forget what it tastes like.
Shawn @shawn 6:16 PM
But is this amnesia or just a reassociation
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:16 PM
then it'll back into fashion
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:17 PM
and a latent virus activates cell death somehow
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:17 PM
Put pumpkin spice in a pair of mom jeans and have it listen to Perry Como
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:17 PM
"Pumpkin spice linked to 15 forms of deadly cancer, study finds"
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:17 PM
@dave.pena good idea
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:17 PM
5 minutes left
Joey B @joey.bears 6:17 PM
I like that one!
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:17 PM
One weird trick that pumpkin spice HATES
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:17 PM
wait so where do we all stand on reconsolidation based disruption
@all
Shawn @shawn 6:18 PM
It could work but how do we do it?
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:18 PM
rocketbot not scientist but think you should see doctor
Joey B @joey.bears 6:18 PM
so, could I infect everyone and then later activate the virus? Like a Bond Villain?
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:18 PM
we gotta brand pumpkin spice as racist and womanizing
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:18 PM
How would the virus be activated by the action of reconsolidation?
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:18 PM
the only way to do it right is trigger the virus at the same time in everyone, like via the superbowl commercial that also triggers the association with pumpkin spice
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:19 PM
If I'm understanding your thing correctly @dave.pena
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:19 PM
can viruses be activated by things like heat?
Shawn @shawn 6:19 PM
@Steve.Ngo probably
Joey B @joey.bears 6:19 PM

Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:19 PM
We could activate the virus via a certain frequency of light emitted from the TV.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:19 PM
you can put them in containers that are
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:19 PM
or dreadd
Shawn @shawn 6:20 PM
could we release a gas in the atmosphere
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:20 PM
also I think people have been playing with ultrasound activated drug capsules
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:20 PM
I've seen light shined in the eyes of rats activate ChR2
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:20 PM
hahahaha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:20 PM
😬
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:20 PM
gas
i think thats a good one
Shawn @shawn 6:20 PM
like in Serenity
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:20 PM
2 minutes
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:20 PM
how about something like food?
Joey B @joey.bears 6:20 PM
Could we put something in the lattes that causes people to emit the gas to each other?
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:20 PM
Something in the water supply?
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:20 PM
can a ingested chemical active it?
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
like we put something in the water during superbowl
Shawn @shawn 6:21 PM
@Steve.Ngo probably - some chemical that diffuses into the brain and breaks some bounding molecule
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
that activates a receptor that we stuck in with a virus
show the commercial
Joey B @joey.bears 6:21 PM


Shawn @shawn 6:21 PM
like doxecycline or w/e its called
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
nothing happens
hahaha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:21 PM
Bark BArk 😆
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:21 PM
45 SECONDS
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:21 PM
Attach it to a molecule that passes the blood-brain barrier by changing into something different entirely.
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:21 PM
Yeah I like that
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:21 PM
so we make a virus, put it in pumpkin lattes
then later we switch it to the activator
Jeff Mohl @jeff 6:22 PM
Gas everyone during the commercial, then kill it off later through the water supply or something.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:22 PM
TIME
TIME
TIME
Shawn @shawn 6:22 PM
Time
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:22 PM
DAMN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
IT
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:22 PM
tIME
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:22 PM
TIME
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:22 PM
I thought we were going to solve this one
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:22 PM
so close
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:22 PM
We were close
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:22 PM
the whole en mass thing was tough
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
Just beyond our grasp
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:23 PM
I think we may need to loosen the web search ban
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
Hahaha!
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:23 PM
let's not lower the bar yet
Shawn @shawn 6:23 PM
I think we had a general idea of how to do it
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
We just needed to work out specifics
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:23 PM
we came close
like super villian style
Shawn @shawn 6:23 PM
its difficult to do en masse
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:23 PM
yes, all valid routes to investigate further
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:23 PM
I was hoping it'd involve tampering with those abysmal Doritos commercials during the superbowl.
Joey B @joey.bears 6:23 PM
I thought we did solve it, everyone farts out a pumpkin spice memory-killing virus during the super bowl which gets activated during a commercial like a bond villain and then I deactivate it with the Batman Microwave Emitter
Shawn @shawn 6:24 PM
haha
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:24 PM
Most things can be solved with the plot of The Dark Knight.
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:24 PM
I think superbowl commercial
reconsolidation
then timing that with disruption
was kinda hard
for us
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:25 PM
im sure a ton of pumpkin latte drinkers do not watch the super bowl
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:25 PM
ok this is going to be a pain in the ass to summarize
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:25 PM
What do they watch? New Girl?
Steve Ngo @Steve.Ngo 6:25 PM
we'd be missing a whole portion
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:25 PM
rocketbot not scientist but think you should see doctor
Shawn @shawn 6:25 PM
I think you'd have to pull off something like they did in Serenity
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:25 PM
what did they do?
Shawn @shawn 6:26 PM
They had atmospheric release of mood stabilizers
Joey B @joey.bears 6:26 PM
They killed off one of the greatest characters in sci-fi history...
Shawn @shawn 6:26 PM
haha
rocketbot @rocketbot 6:26 PM
😬
Joey B @joey.bears 6:26 PM
Rest in peace Wash
Shawn @shawn 6:26 PM
RIP indeed
Jonte Jones @jonte.jones 6:27 PM
#DicksOutForWash
Dave Pena @dave.pena 6:27 PM
ok move back to waiting room
Shawn @shawn 6:27 PM

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