Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Computer algorithm created to encode human memories

Researchers in the US have developed an implant to help a disabled brain encode memories, giving new hope to Alzheimer’s sufferers and wounded soldiers who cannot remember the recent past.

The prosthetic, developed at the University of Southern California and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in a decade-long collaboration, includes a small array of electrodes implanted into the brain. 

http://tse1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=JN.4WV0D4/XBgVNd6iNOFgEDg&w=300&h=300&c=0&pid=1.9&rs=0&p=0
The key to the research is a computer algorithm that mimics the electrical signalling used by the brain to translate short-term into permanent memories.

This makes it possible to bypass a damaged or diseased region, even though there is no way of “reading” a memory — decoding its content or meaning from its electrical signal.

“It’s like being able to translate from Spanish to French without being able to understand either language,” said Ted Berger of USC, the project leader.

The prosthesis has performed well in tests on rats and monkeys. Now it is being evaluated in human brains, the team told the international conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in Milan. 
The project is funded by Darpa, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is interested in new ways to help soldiers recover from memory loss.

But the researchers say findings could eventually help to treat neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, by enabling signals to bypass damaged circuitry in the hippocampus, the brain's memory centre.

Sensory inputs to the brain — sights, sounds, smells or feelings — create complex electrical signals, known as spike trains, which travel through the hippocampus. This neural process involves re-encoding the signals several times, so they have a quite different electrical signature by the time they are ready for long-term storage.

Damage that interferes with this translation may prevent the formation of long-term memories while old ones survive — which is why some people with brain damage or disease recall events from long ago but not from the recent past.

For the rest of the story: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/466bf22e-66a8-11e5-97d0-1456a776a4f5.html#axzz3nAnrAsKG

1 comment:

  1. Do we honestly believe DARPA's interest is in helping soldiers' with memory loss? This goal is too altruistic in nature.

    ReplyDelete

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