Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have spent 10 years developing an implant to help a human brain encode memories, using an algorithm to emulate the electrical signaling needed for translating short-term memories into permanent ones.
The implant enables circumvention of a damaged or diseased brain area, which USC's Ted Berger describes as "like being able to translate from Spanish to French without being able to understand either language."
The translation algorithm is being applied to nine patients with epilepsy who had electrodes embedded within their brains to treat seizures. As the subjects performed simple tasks, the scientists read the electrical input and output signals in their brains so the algorithm could be refined to the point where it could anticipate neural signal translation with 90-percent accuracy.
The next stage of the project will be to transmit the translated signal back to the brain of a subject with hippocampal damage to determine if a bypass of the damaged region is possible.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the project because of interest in new methods for helping soldiers recover from memory loss. The researchers also think the results of the trials could eventually help in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
From Financial Times
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