Scientists Create a Brain Implant that Improves Memory

Do you struggle with your memory on occasion? You may be in luck as scientists have created a brain implant that boosts memory – at least that was the case in its very first test run. Experts are encouraged by this because of the promise it offers in possibly treating dementia, brain injuries and other ailments that could damage memory.

Brain Implant Inner Workings

This implant works a lot like a pacemaker as it sends electrical pulses to help the brain whenever it struggles in storing new data, but stays quiet if it senses the brain is performing as it should.

During this test, as recently reported in the publication Nature Communications, the device appeared to improve word recall by 15% — which is about the amount that is stolen by Alzheimer’s disease over a span of two and half years.

We must stress that this implant is still in its experimental stages. However, Researchers are already discussing options in commercializing this technology. But the girth of its applicability is still unknown, having only been used so far only on people that have epilepsy.

Experts are cautioning that the risk for misuse of a “memory booster” could be enormous — A.D.H.D. drugs are currently being used as study aids. They also emphasized that a 15% improvement is pretty modest at this point.

New Type of Device

However, this research is actually ushering in brand new type of device. This is a device that serves as an automatic aid which will enhance normal cognitive functionality. Physicians have already used implants that are similar for years in order to block certain abnormal brain activity bursts. One of the most common uses for them has been in people who are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease and also epilepsy.

“The exciting thing about this is that, if it can be replicated and extended, then we can use the same method to figure out what features of brain activity predict good performance,” stated Bradley Voytek, who is an assistant professor for cognitive and data science, from the University of California, located in San Diego.

This implant is actually based on years of decoding various brain signals, and has received support from the Department of Defense with over $70 million in funding. They are seeking more effective treatments for traumatic brain injuries, which are the signature injuries for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

This research team, who were led by researchers from both the University of Pennsylvania and also Thomas Jefferson University, previously stated that electrical pulses from various implanted electrodes will aid recall reliably.

“It’s one thing to go back through your data, and find that the stimulation works. It’s another to have the program run on its own and watch it work in real time,” stated Michael Kahana, who is a professor of psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and also the senior author for this brand new study.

“Now that the technology is out of the box, all sorts of neuro-modulation algorithms could be used in this way,” he further stated.

Dr. Edward Chang, who is a professor of neurosurgery from the University of California, located in San Francisco, added, “Very similar approaches might be relevant for other applications, such as treating symptoms of depression or anxiety,” even though brain targets would probably be different.

The research group tested this memory aid on 25 different people with epilepsy who had been evaluated for operations.