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Novel brain prosthesis can partially restore memory


Doctors improve memory with a prosthesis

Unfortunately, memory diminishes in the course of life. But even an accident can damage the brain and memory, for example, so important information is forgotten. Researchers have now succeeded in developing a new approach to restoring memory. The experts use a kind of prosthesis for this.

Scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a prosthesis that is designed to restore memory. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Journal of Neural Engineering".

Memory storage has been increased by 35 percent

The newly developed prosthesis uses technology that allows the prosthesis to increase memory memory by about 35 percent compared to a previous baseline measurement. In this research, a new approach to memory restoration was used for the first time, which may be able to compensate for memory gaps and memory loss in the future. Instead of trying to reverse the memory loss, the prosthesis improves the ability of the memory by practically writing its own brain cell code into the memory, the experts explain.

First step to restore memory loss

First, the scientists identified the patient's brain cell code (brain cell pattern). So they could then use this code to improve their existing memory. This was an important first step in restoring memory loss, explains study author Professor Dr. Robert Hampson of the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Prosthesis improves short-term memory

The prosthesis improves short-term memory (also called episodic memory, in which the brain initially stores small pieces of information), which is first influenced by Alzheimer's and other memory disorders. The participants in the current study were patients with epilepsy. The doctors tried to find out where the origins of the seizures were in the brain. The same implanted electrodes were also used to perform a series of tests for the memory study.

Episodic memory was increased by 37 percent

In the first test, participants completed a memory task while the research team recorded their neural firing patterns (which the study called "code"). The researchers then analyzed this code to determine which memory patterns led to correct answers. Then they loaded the patterns into the participants' brains (especially in the hippocampus, where new memories emerge) while the subjects completed another memory task, which resulted in a 37 percent increase in episodic memory.

Subjects were able to better remember pictures

During the next test, the test subjects were asked to remember a photo. They then had to identify this image between an array of similar photos over an hour later. Again, the researchers recorded and analyzed participants' neural activities to identify the patterns that led to the correct answers. When they put this code back in the participants' brains, their memory improved by 35 percent compared to their baseline values.

Memory content can be strengthened

A patient's memory can be read out, amplified and then finally returned to the patient, explains Professor Hampson. Even if a person's memory is impaired, it is possible to identify the neural signal patterns that indicate correct memory formation and separate them from the wrong patterns. Then these correct patterns can be fed in to aid the patient's brain in accurately creating new memories. This process is not intended to replace innate memory functions, but to serve as a reinforcement for the memory, adds the expert.

Storage capacity can be increased

Since this was an implant study, the treatment is not suitable for use by the general public. Rather, such implants are a first step towards possibly developing a tool for people with disorders and injuries who have already damaged the brain, the researchers explain. At the present time, the results of the study already show that the brain's memory code can be identified, recorded and manipulated in order to increase the storage capacity. (as)

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