Experimental brain implants to improve memory

prototype-prosthetic-memory-1000Memories shape how one behaves in the world and are central to providing humans with their sense of identity. A team of biomedical engineers and neurologists at Wake Forest and USC have reported the development of brain implants for restoring and enhancing memory.

Using single neuron microelectrodes, this prosthetic memory tool maps areas of the subject’s brain which are stimulated throughout the process of memory recall. The device then inputs similar patterns of brain activity to stimulate higher levels of memory function. Researchers tested the implant in a proof of concept study with 15 patients and demonstrated increased short-term and longer-term memory by 35% on average.

Memory enhancement is of great relevance due to the prevalence of memory failure in clinical cases of amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease. Many victims of memory loss conditions behave in ways which are confronting for their family and friends. The technology therefore has potential to help patients in recollecting past experiences and reconstructing their sense of identity.

Brain implants may eventually improve learning or information retention, and computer-brain interfaces are a technology segment with significant development focus.

Read more: IEEE Spectrum / WIRED / J of Neural Engineering with video / WFBMC

Image: GDJ / CC0

This story is taken from the 13 April 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.