Brain Implant Appears To Boost Memory In Humans
Science & Tech / /
An implant that is able to zap the brain with electricity has proven to improve people’s scores on memory tests. It may be used in helping with dementia, or even boost the memory.
Researchers from the University of Southern California have designed an implant that could improve memory performance by up to 30 percent. The results were based on first human trial of such a device and were presented at the Society of Neuroscience meeting in Washington.
As New Scientist reports, the team implanted the first “memory prosthesis” in 20 volunteers. They were already receiving electrodes in their brain to treat their epilepsy, so it was easier to add the extra system. The tests were divided in two parts: First the team collected brain activity data on the volunteers as they learned. Then, they had the implant stimulate the same areas of the brain that lit up during the original memory test, which actually was a simple short-term memory boosting exercise.
“We are writing the neural code to enhance memory function,” says Dong Song of the University of Southern California, who presented the findings, told New Scientist. “This has never been done before.”
The role of the implant was to strengthen the normal pathways the brain uses in order to memorize. Any time we receive a stimulus from the outside world, a number of complex electrical signals travel through several regions of the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain. As the signal passes through hippocampus, it is converted into something different and can then be sent off to the long-term memory repository.
The purpose of the implant is actually to mimic the role of hippocampus. By doing so, it’s boosting the memory of the individual. The researchers described the process as accurately translating Spanish to French without speaking either language.
This device could be used for people suffering from long-term-memory loss, including patients with Alzheimer’s disease. It is still very early to talk about the effects that this technology can have on these patients, but it is interesting that such a technology is being developed in the first place.
source: New Scientist