Human Trials Begin on Memory-Improving Brain Implants
Traumatic Brain Injury – This New Technology Might Help
At the most recent annual Society for Neuroscience meeting, which took place in Chicago from October 17-21, there was a presentation involving two studies funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research wing of the United States military. It made a big splash in the research community, and for good reason – the results of the studies suggest that implanted electrodes could improve long-term memory.
While scientists do not fully understand how memories are formed, they believe that the hippocampus – a structure in the brain thought to also play a role in emotion – is central to the process. Basically, short-term memories are created when the hippocampus collects and stores sensory formation in a readily-accessible format. When a short-term memory is recalled over and over again, it develops into a long-term memory, a process which involves an electrical signal traveling from one part of the hippocampus (CA3) to another (CA1).
In one of the studies, which was published in The Journal of Neural Engineering, a group of researchers had 12 subjects with epilepsy look at pictures and then try to recall them 90 seconds later. During this process, the researchers mapped the electrical activity in the hippocampus.
By mapping the firing patterns of the CA1 cells, they were able to accurately predict the firing patterns of the CA3 cells four times out of five, 80 percent of the time. What does this mean? Let’s say a brain injury survivor has problems forming and retaining long-term memories because the CA3 cells in the hippocampus are not firing properly. In the future, scientists could potentially stimulate a person’s CA1 cells in a pattern that would mimic a correct CA3 signal, kicking the memory formation mechanism back into gear, so to speak.
The second study, conducted by a team of neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania, also recorded brain activity in epileptic subjects while they performed a certain task – in this case, they were asked to a read and then recall a list of words. Using an algorithm that could predict whether a person would forget a given word, the researchers provided electrical stimulation to the brain when a patient read the words likely to be forgotten. The effect of the electrical stimulation was considerable: it improved memory by 140 percent.
While it’s too soon to conclude that electrical stimulation of the brain does in fact improve long-term memory, the results so far have been very promising. The California brain injury lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm will stay on top of this story and provides any updates in the future.
If you or someone you love has sustained a traumatic brain injury in an accident caused by another person, please don’t hesitate to contact us for legal assistance. We can help you get the compensation you need to gain access to the most advanced medical treatments out there so you can make a significant, if not full, recovery. To discuss the specifics of your case with one of our dedicated team members, call us today at (800) 522-7274. We offer FREE consultations.
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