Scientists Successfully Create Brain Interface That Improves Memory
Cognitive-boosting prosthetics are quickly becoming a reality as doctors are seeing success with a neural interface that improves memory function by stimulating electrodes implanted in the brain.
This “closed-loop hippocampal neural prosthesis” has moved from testing on rodents, to actual human application with positive results. The device works by sending electrical signals from an apparatus outside the body to electrodes internally connected to the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped part of the brain that plays a major role in memory.
Researchers involved in the program describe their approach as aiming to use patient’s own neural codes for memory through a closed-loop system in which electrical signals are exchanged instantaneously.
Patients using the system showed a 37 percent improvement in short term memory tests. Scientists were even more surprised to find that long-term memory of 30 to 60 minute intervals had also improved by a similar 35 percent.
But these electrical zaps weren’t just random stimulation. Researchers carefully recorded where and when specific regions of the patients’ brains reacted when performing tasks involving the use of memory, and carefully tailored electrical pulses to induce a similar response.
The team originally tested their method on brain tissue, before moving on to rodents, and then monkeys. Now, with their success in humans, they will continue to develop the technology in hopes of someday having a fully implantable apparatus to boost cognitive function.
One of the members of the team touted memory as being part and parcel of one’s personality. Our collection of memories in life certainly play an important role in individuality allowing us to recall experiences that shape our lives.
The team hopes this technology could one day help restore memory function to those affected by drugs, disease, and brain injury.
Their success in memory enhancement comes at a time when interest in cognitive boosting technology is piquing. A number of scientists have been working on mapping out the brains’ neurological connections in hope of developing computer-brain interfaces for superhuman neurological function.
Elon Musk is currently invested in a project called Neuralink, a neural mesh laid over the brain, merging AI with human cognition. Musk says the concept would ideally improve the speed of connection between the brain and one’s digital self, focusing particularly on output.
With the recent success of this closed-loop hippocampal prosthesis, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect some investment from Silicon Valley in the future.
Nutrition for Reprogramming Your Brain
Is a Tesseract a Wrinkle in Time?
Did a coming of age story set in a science fiction context plant the seeds of quantum physics in popular culture in the 1960s? When Madeleine L’Engle wrote “A Wrinkle in Time” in the late 1950s, quantum theory was in its infancy, but was being nurtured by the likes of Max Planck, Niels Bohr, and a cohort of other theoretical physicists.
In 1962, L’Engle entered new literary realms with the adaptation of quantum physics in the form of the “tesseract,” a theory of dimensional travel. She also brought a female protagonist to the male-dominated science fiction genre, another groundbreaking move. That was 50-plus years ago — now the tesseract model, essentially a 4D analogue of a cube, appears in fiction, comic books and film, and is used by science to describe dimensional processes and systems such as DNA sequences.
After being rejected by at least 40 publishers, L’Engle’s book “A Wrinkle in Time,” was finally published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and went on to win the prestigious John Newbery medal in 1963. The book, an instant classic, continued to garner honors over the following five decades. Fourteen million copies of “A Wrinkle in Time” have sold since the first edition.
The word “tesseract” was invented by eccentric British mathematician and science fiction writer Charles Howard Hinton, who coined the term in his 1888 article, “What is the Fourth Dimension.” Quantum theory is now common parlance in theoretical physics. But L’Engle’s prescient story-telling introduced tesseract theory to generations of young readers. This notion of interdimensional travel via the tesseract was seeded into collective consciousness and continually appeared above the pop culture waterline in the form of comic books and film.