Memory Implant / Nanna

This kind of reminds me of the film Johnny Mnemonic. I think its just because of the stored memory information and recall thing. Awesome film, Dolph Lundgren and Keanu Reeves, a film with those guys has to be good right?

Anyway…

Scientists have designed a brain implant that restored lost memory function and strengthened recall of new information in laboratory rats — a crucial first step in the development of so-called neuroprosthetic devices to repair deficits from dementia, stroke and other brain injuries in humans.

I hope this gets developed for Humans as i believe there is a really high probability i will get dementia as most of my grandparents/great-grandparents etc have had it.

The Link to the whole article is here. That is if you want it from the source.

Though still a long way from being tested in humans, the implant demonstrates for the first time that a cognitive function can be improved with a device that mimics the firing patterns of neurons. In recent years neuroscientists have developed implants that allow paralyzed people to move prosthetic limbs or a computer cursor, using their thoughts to activate the machines. In the new work, being published Friday, researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California used some of the same techniques to read neural activity. But they translated those signals internally, to improve brain function rather than to activate outside appendages.

“It’s technically very impressive to pull something like this off, given our current level of technology,” said Daryl Kipke, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the experiment. “We are just scratching the surface when it comes to interacting with the brain, but this experiment shows what’s possible and the great potential of interacting with the brain in this way.”

In a series of experiments, scientists at Wake Forest led by Sam A. Deadwyler trained rats to remember which of two identical levers to press to receive water; the animals first saw one of the two levers appear and then (after being distracted) had to remember to press the other lever to be rewarded. Repeated training on this task teaches rats the general rule, but in each trial the animal has to remember which lever appeared first, to inform the later choice.

The rats were implanted with a tiny array of electrodes, which threaded from the top of the head down into two neighboring pieces of the hippocampus, a structure that is crucial for forming these new memories, in rats as in humans. The two slivers of tissue, called CA1 and CA3, communicate with each other as the brain learns and stores new information. The device transmits these exchanges to a computer.

To test the effect of the implant, the researchers used a drug to shut down the activity of CA1. Without CA1 online, the rats could not remember which lever to push to get water. They remembered the rule — push the opposite lever of the one that first appeared — but not which they had seen first.

The researchers, having recorded the appropriate signal from CA1, simply replayed it, like a melody on a player piano — and the animals remembered. The implant acted as if it were CA1, at least for this one task.

“Turn the switch on, the animal has the memory; turn it off and they don’t: that’s exactly how it worked,” said Theodore W. Berger, a professor of engineering at U.S.C. and the lead author of the study, being published in The Journal of Neural Engineering. His co-authors were Robert E. Hampson and Anushka Goonawardena, along with Dr. Deadwyler, of Wake Forest, and Dong Song and Vasilis Z. Marmarelis of U.S.C.

In rats that did not receive the drug, new memories faded by about 40 percent after a long distraction period. But if the researchers amplified the corresponding CA1 signals using the implant, the memories eroded only about 10 percent in that time.

The authors said that with wireless technology and computer chips, the system could be easily fitted for human use. But there are a number of technical and theoretical obstacles. For one, the implant must first record a memory trace before playing it back or amplifying it; in patients with significant memory problems, those signals may be too weak. In addition, human memory is a rich, diverse neural process that involves many other brain areas, not just CA3 and CA1; implants in this area will be limited.

Still, some restored memories — Where is the bathroom? Where are the pots and pans stored? — could make a big difference in the lives of someone with dementia. “If you’re caring for someone in the house, for example,” Dr. Berger said, “it might be enough to keep the person out of the nursing home.”

On a more personal note, my Nanna has really bad dementia and has suffered many strokes and is only about 80. She keeps suffering mini strokes and is in a really bad state and cannot do anything for herself anymore. She can hardly hold her arms up and cannot eat or drink on her own. I know this is partially due to age but i feel she would just have a more enjoyable life if it wasn’t for Dementia. My family aren’t even recognisable to her anymore and this to me is just heartbreaking. To me it would seem in her mind she would think no-one visits or cares about her, as she is in a dementia nursing home. Its not a fair thing, i guess life isn’t fair. I want her last moments knowing we are there for her and love her. But at times it seems futile because she doesn’t know anything anymore. Pity nothing can be done but have her without dignity and alone. I know its more fathers day then Grandma’s day but i would like her to know i’m there and miss and love her. I don’t like dementia or the idea that i or anyone else could get it, regardless of whether i know them or not. Its just a bad thing.

Sorry about the personalness i just felt i had to get it down and out of myself.

Thanks.

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