The University of Southern California (USC) and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have developed a new brain prosthesis device to treat individuals suffering from memory loss.
The prosthesis, which performed well in laboratory testing in animals, is currently being assessed in human patients. It comprises small array of electrodes implanted into the brain.
The device has been developed based on decades of research by Ted Berger and new algorithm created by Dong Song, belonging to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
In addition, Wake Forest Baptist department of physiology and pharmacology Sam Deadwyler and Robert Hampson helped to build the device, who have collected the neural data used to construct the models and algorithms.
When the brain receives sensory input, the brain prosthesis creates a memory in the form of a complex electrical signal, which travels through multiple regions of the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain.
The signal is re-encoded until it reaches the final region as a wholly different signal that is sent off for long-term storage, at each region.
Using data obtained by Deadwyler and Hampson, first from animals and then from humans, Song and Berger determined a way to accurately mimic how a memory is translated from short-term memory into long-term memory.
The prosthesis has been designed to bypass a damaged hippocampal section and provide the next region with the correctly translated memory.
Hampson said: "Being able to predict neural signals with the USC model suggests that it can be used to design a device to support or replace the function of a damaged part of the brain."
Image: Researchers at USC and North Carolina are exploring short-term and long-term memory. Photo: courtesy of Illustration/istock.