New Brain Prosthesis May Help People Struggling with Memory Loss

First Posted: Sep 30, 2015 09:16 AM EDT

A new prosthesis may actually help people with memory loss. Scientists have created a brain prosthesis that is designed to help individuals suffering from the loss of memory.

The prosthesis itself includes a small array of electrodes implanted in the brain. So far, it's performed well in laboratory testing in animals, and researchers now hope to evaluate it in human patients.

When your brain receives sensory input, it creates a memory in the form of a complex electrical signal that travels through multiple regions of the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. At each region, the signal is re-encoded until it reaches the final region as a wholly different signal that is sent off for long-term storage.

Unfortunately, damage to certain regions of the brain can prevent the translation. This means that there's the possibility that long-term memory will not be formed. That's why an individual with hippocampal damage-such as with Alzheimer's disease-can recall events from a long time ago but have difficult forming new long-term memories.

In this case, the researchers found a way to accurately mimic how a memory is translated from short-term memory into long-term memory. The prosthesis that they created to do so is designed to bypass a damaged hippocampal section and provide the next region with the correctly translated memory.

"Being able to predict neural signals with the USC model suggests that it can be used to design a device to support or replace the function of a damaged part of the brain," said Robert Hampson, one of the researchers, in a news release.

The researchers plan to next attempt to send the translated signal back into the brain of a patient with damage at one of the regions in order to bypass the damage and enable the formation of an accurate long-term memory.

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