Exclusive: Brain implant boosts human memory for the first time

Exclusive: Brain implant boosts human memory for the first time

A puzzle

It’s all starting to take shape

Lea Paterson/Science Photo Library

A “memory prosthesis” brain implant has enhanced human memory for the first time. The device is comprised of electrodes implanted in the brain, and is designed to mimic the way we naturally process memories, and can boost performance on memory tests by up to 30 per cent. A similar approach may work for enhancing other brain skills, such as vision or movement, says the team behind the work.

“We are writing the neural code to enhance memory function,” says Dong Song of the University of Southern California, who presented the findings at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington DC over the weekend. “This has never been done before.”

The team’s implant gives small electric shocks to the hippocampus, a brain region vital for learning and memory. By releasing bursts of electricity in a pattern that mimics normal, healthy brain activity patterns, it is hoped that the device will help with disorders involving memory problems, such as dementia, and even be adapted for other brain areas, to boost other types of brain function.

Song and his colleagues implanted their device in 20 volunteers who were having electrodes put into their brains anyway, to treat epilepsy.

First, the team used the device to collect data on patterns of activity in the brain when the people were learning. Each volunteer performed a memory test, in which they had to remember which unusual, blobby shapes they had been shown 5 to 10 seconds before. This test measures short-term memory, and people normally score around 80 per cent on this task.

They also

Published at Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:54:00 +0000

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