In Brief
A study in the field of memory prosthetics makes a great leap forward as it starts human trials.
Memory Boost

Previously, we reported on a new method of delivering brain stimulation using implanted electrodes, and now, this method is going through human trials and we have a little more info on the results.

Funded by the US military, the strategy is meant to find ways to treat soldiers whose long-term memory has been affected due to head trauma received while in service. Findings that presented evidence of the method working (in relation to improving an organism’s ability to retain memories) was recently presented by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at the Society for Neuroscience meeting back in October 2015.

Ultimately, scientists working on this thought that an electrical signal travelling from CA3 to CA1 was key to memory formation. As such, they tried to recreate a similar signal in order to restore the hippocampus’ functionality (which is responsible for gathering information and translating that into short term memories).

Image credit: DARPA
The process works by mimicking the electrical patterns that create and store memories, which essentially bridge the gaps caused by brain injury.

The implant has already shown to aid memory encoding in rats and monkeys, and now it is now being tested in human epilepsy patients who have devices already implanted in the brain, allowing researchers to track brain activity.

This milestone in the study lends itself to numerous opportunities in the field of memory prosthetics.

A New Future, and A Recovered Past

The ultimate goal of the study is to treat traumatic brain injury and find ways for a ‘neuroprosthetic’ to automatically enhance failing memory. The device could prove to be effective, not only for soldiers who have suffered brain injuries, but for those who suffer from memory loss due to ageing or seizures that cause brain tissues needed for long-term memory function to deteriorate.

“The data is convincing, but I’m still at a loss for understanding,” says neuroscientist Thomas McHugh, who has been following the team’s work, weighing in on the study. And as the study goes into human trials, hopefully, we will develop a better understanding of how stimulating certain locations in the brain can lead to predictable results.

Within the next few years, scientists will study whether the chip will be beneficial towards building long-term memories in various brain related injuries.