Apr 23, 2013

Memory Implants for Alzheimer's Patients?

A maverick neuroscientist believes he has deciphered the code by which the brain forms long-term memories.

By +Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 

Memory Implants
Every year the MIT Technology Review picks the 10 technologies they think most likely to change the world.

Imagine if Alzheimer's patients could have a chip implanted in their brain that would allow them to form long term memories. In other words, remember the present, and recall it.

Theodore Berger, a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, is envisioning a day in the not too distant future when a patient with severe memory loss could get help from an electronic implant.

In people whose brains have suffered damage from Alzheimer’s, stroke, or injury, disrupted neuronal networks often prevent long-term memories from forming.

Berger wants to restore the ability to create long-term memories by implanting chips like these in the brain.

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By the early 1990s, his understanding—and computing hardware—had advanced to the point that he could work with his colleagues at the University of Southern California’s department of engineering to make computer chips that mimic the signal processing done in parts of the hippocampus. “It became obvious that if I could get this stuff to work in large numbers in hardware, you’ve got part of the brain,” he says. “Why not hook up to what’s existing in the brain? So I started thinking seriously about prosthetics long before anybody even considered it.”

Go here to continue reading Memory Implants in the MIT Technology Review.

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