This DARPA-Developed Brain Implant Can Help Recover Your Memories

April 9, 2018  Source: Popular Mechanics 242

Can a neural implant help you recover your memory? A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded research pilot suggests that the answer may soon be yes. 

In a small trial on 15 patients at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, "prosthetic memory" implant helped patients improve short-term memory by an average of 35 percent — a "substantial improvement" according to lead research Robert Hampson. "We were not surprised to find that this worked," Hampson said, "what surprised us was how successful it was."

The patients were part of an epilepsy treatment program and already had electrodes implanted in their brains to map neural activity for seizure treatment and surgery. On their off time, researchers recruited the patients to play a simple memory game (identifying which of several images were shown on a previous screen) and mapped patients' neuron activity, especially in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory creation.

When the researchers stimulated the patients' hippocampus in later trials using personalized "memory codes," the patients' short-term memories improved. A two-minute test showed 37 percent improvement, and an hour-long memory test showed 35 percent improvement.

"Memory is at the heart of who a person actually is," Hampson said. "Without our memories, we lose our sense of self." The researchers' goal is to restore memory for patients who suffer from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, memory loss due to aging, Alzheimer's or other diseases, creating neural memory triggers in patients who don't already have electrodes implanted.

By Ddu
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