Memory Successfully Boosted In Humans By New Prosthetic Brain System

Scientists from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center partnered with researchers from the University of Southern California to develop an innovative procedure to give hope to people struggling with remembering important information. A new implant uses a person’s own memory patterns in order to boost the brain’s natural ability to encode those memories and recall them quickly. There has been a reported 35 to 37 % increase in short-term memory performance.

“This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient’s own brain cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, ‘write in’ that code to make existing memory work better, an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss,” said the study’s lead author Robert Hampson, Ph.D., professor of physiology/pharmacology and neurology at Wake Forest Baptist.

(Source: Interesting Engineering)

Epilepsy patients from Wake Forest Baptist were surgically implanted with electrodes in the various parts of their brains. The electronic prosthetic system is based on a multi-input-multi-output (or MIMO) mathematical model to influence the patterns of neurons firing within the hippocampus.

The neural patterns of the participants were recorded in the beginning while they played a simple memory game on the computer. The patients saw the image and had to identify the image after the screen went blank. The engineers then analyzed the recordings of correct responses and generated a code for the correct memory performance for the participant.

(Source: ScienceAlert)
The second test involved showing the participants a very detailed photo. After some delay, they were shown a number of photos and they had to identify the first photo. After that, they were put through a longer delay before being shown sets of three pictures at a time and then had to identify the photos they saw an hour ago. They were simulated with the electrodes in their brains and it was observed that there was a 35% improvement in their short-term memory.

 “We showed that we could tap into a patient’s own memory content, reinforce it and feed it back to the patient,” Hampson said. “Even when a person’s memory is impaired, it is possible to identify the neural firing patterns that indicate correct memory formation and separate them from the patterns that are incorrect. We can then feed in the correct patterns to assist the patient’s brain in accurately forming new memories, not as a replacement for innate memory function, but as a boost to it.”

(Source: 33rd Square)

He continued, “To date, we’ve been trying to determine whether we can improve the memory skill people still have. In the future, we hope to be able to help people hold onto specific memories, such as where they live or what their grandkids look like when their overall memory begins to fail.”

The memory implants only affect the short-term memory for now. But, the researchers are working on increasing that to long-term memory.

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