In what may seem like a Hollywood blockbuster, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has developed an implant that goes directly onto the human brain.
The agency wrote in a statement their device is showing promise with improving patient’s memory tests scores. It is “raising hope that such approaches may someday help individuals suffering from memory deficits as a result of traumatic brain injury or other pathologies.”
DARPA’s Restoring Active Memory (RAM) program presented their preliminary findings at the ‘Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum,’ which is also hosted by the agency at St. Louis.
In previous studies, it has been shown that applying an electrical stimulus directly to the areas of the brain that are connected with memory, can improve the patient’s recollection of information-like lists.
Justin Sanchez who is the RAM program manager said: “In just over one-year into the effort, the novel approach to facilitating memory formation, and recall has already been tested in a few dozen human volunteers. The subjects in the study have neurological problems unrelated to memory loss, but volunteered to test the new neuro-technological interventions while they were undergoing brain surgery.”
The aim of this study was to give the “researchers the ability to “read” the neural processes involved in memory formation, and retrieval — and even predict when a volunteer is about to make an error in recall, the implanted electrodes also provide a means of sending signals to specific groups of neurons, with the goal of influencing the accuracy of recall,” DARPA said.
The initial results have indicated it is possible to record, and interpret key signals or “neural codes” that are coming from the brain during memory encoding, and retrieval.
It is also possible to improve recall by providing focused electrical stimulation of the brain.
“Everyone has had the experience of struggling to remember long lists of items or complicated directions to get somewhere, today we are discovering how implantable neuro-technologies can facilitate the brain’s performance of these functions,” Sanchez said in a statement.
“The work is addressing the important issue of the ideal timing of electrical stimuli involved in the neural codes. Should we provide electrical inputs when the lists are first being taught, and memorized — or should we stimulate when the person is working to recall those items?” Sanchez said.
“We still have a lot to learn about how the human brain encodes declarative memory, but these early experiments are clarifying issues such as these, and suggest there is great potential to help people with certain kinds of memory deficits.”
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