Poor Memory? Don’t Worry, We Have An App For That

biomimetic device that mimics signal processing function of hippocampal neurons

By-pass of damaged brain region with a biomimetic device.

OK, not an app really, but an implant. Theodore Berger is a neuroscientist and biomedical engineer. He has been studying how the brain stores and transmits long-term memories, and he thinks that after 20 years in the lab he has finally worked it out. Now he is hoping to create an implant which can boost your ability to remember.

Theodore Berger, from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has been building silicon chips which mimic neural pathways in the brain that carry memories. His aim is to be able to swap implants for damaged brain tissue to rebuild these neural pathways.

If the research proves successful the implants will most likely be used in patients who have brain damage and severe memory problems after suffering from strokes, Alzheimer’s or head injuries.

Crazy Scientist?

For years many people thought that Theodore Berger was a little crazy. However, in recent months his experiments have started to show signs of great promise and the scientific community is now taking his research more seriously.

So far human tests have not been conducted. However, his silicon neural pathways have successfully transmitted information that can be processed in rats and monkeys.

Increasing Memory Banks

The implants will not allow people to recover lost memories, at least, it is not expected that this will happen, but instead they provide additional storage space for new memories and for information to be stored which allows long-term memories to be retrieved.

“We’re not putting individual memories back into the brain, We’re putting in the capacity to generate memories.” ~ Theodore Berger

In autumn 2012 their research showed that monkeys could retrieve long-term memories using their implants, proving that the idea works.

The way Berger explains what memory is sounds a little like how computer scientists explain how digital information is stored – “a series of electrical pulses …..  It’s not bizarre. It’s something you can handle. It’s useful. It’s what happens“.

Motor-Neurons

The same implants and silicon pathways have been used to allow people to move robotic arms with their thoughts. This research lead to the development of active prosthetic limbs and give new hope to those who have suffered severe trauma and lost a limb.

The Future?

One day maybe we could all have implants. There are already devices such as Google Glass which are designed to enhance the way we see the world. Maybe the next step would be to store the information and then retrieve whenever we need it.

Suddenly The Matrix springs to mind – maybe with a large enough implant we could download the Internet and retrieve at will. There will be no need for wireless or 4G Internet as each person will already have the world’s information stored. Of course, it could prove to be a bit of a headache.

However, for now the focus is on creating replacement parts for the brain and restoring broken connections between the hippocampus and the long-term memory stores, so that people can remember again.

Image Source: http://neural-prosthesis.com/

Learn More

Theodore W. Berger’s Profile – University of Southern California website

Memory Implants: A maverick neuroscientist believes he has deciphered the code by which the brain forms long-term memories by Jon Cohen on April 23, 2013.

http://neural-prosthesis.com/ – Dr. Theodore Berger’s website (not updated recently) – “Home of research on the development of biomimetic models of hippocampus to serve as neural prostheses for lost cognitive and memory function.

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