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Restoring Long Term Memory

Restoring Long Term Memory

The idea of an electronic brain prosthesis is not science fiction anymore.

It is complicated. It is still in its early phases. And it was hard to understand the first few times I read about it, but the idea that there could be an electronic brain prosthesis to help restore the ability to make long term memories has come one step closer to being possible.  By showing how an implant can help replace lost brain function in monkeys, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and researchers at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, may have demonstrated the model that would also work for other types of brains, including humans.

Recording brain activity

It all starts with the recording of the monkey’s brain activity using an array of electrodes to measure the electrical activity of neurons in the animals’ prefrontal cortex.  The recording is done specifically while the monkeys carry out certain cognitive brain activity related to memory. The recording is stored in an implant, from which researchers can then analyze and figure out how to eventually recreate the code the brain normally uses to transmit signals between neurons. An extremely difficult and dreaded task that this particular group of researchers have had some success with.  Through their work with the monkeys they were able to show that in cases where memory is hindered by the effects of drugs, the device did help restore the ability to create long term memories.

Long term memory in humans

Which then brings the question, will it work in humans? Or before figuring that out, would the same device work in cases where long term memory was actually already lost (instead of the use of drugs as in the case of the monkeys). Their belief is that you would be able to record healthy functioning long term memory function and then implement it within a brain that has lost the ability . That theory and many other related questions about the potential success or failure of this potentially ground breaking medical technology, remain in need of answering.

Source: Technology Review

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