Memory Prosthesis as a Remedy for Neurodegenerative Deseases
On August 15th 2016 science fiction meets science thanks to Kernel start-up.
The subject of this start-up, whose scientific coordinator is Prof. Theodore Berger, director of the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California, is to create an artificial memory that can record the memories and retransmit them to the brain as it happens with the natural.
Anatomically, the hippocampus is the part of the brain that is affected by injury when our mind loses its mnemonic function.
Professor Berger and his team have been studying the functioning of the hippocampus for several years and the first fundamental results have been obtained with experiments on the functioning of a ” Memory Prosthesis ” on animals, in particular mice.
“The hippocampus“, explains Berger, “is the seat of the so-called reconnaissance memory, that is, of those mnemonic labels that allow us to associate a face with a voice or a name. Its neurons are the first to suffer the Alzheimer’s Disease, which is why people who suffer from it have memory lapses and orientation difficulties.”
How it works
The basic design of the prosthesis is a silicon chip. This consists of three principal parts:
- a group of recording electrodes
- a microprocessor
- a group of electrons for stimulation of neurons
This is a three-millimeter large silicon chip: the first chip that can be inserted into the brain and play a part of its functions, the memory.
Experiment on mices
Once the chip was installed on the animal, he was taught to push two water drive levers. Later, he was given a drug that “erased” the experience from the mouse’s brain.
In the last phase of the experiment, the sequence of electrical signals sent thanks to the chip and appropriately recorded, was re-proposed in the same way and the rat actually remembered how to press the two levers.
This result led to the conclusion that a sequence of electrical signals may be associated with a specific action or experience. The development of such a chip would have revolutionary consequences: it would allow to overcome the memory lapses, the language deficits and the difficulties of motor coordination.
Prof. Berger therefore says he is optimistic, as can be seen from his words:
“The time has really come, we are testing the device on humans now and we are getting the first satisfactory results, we intend to move forward with the objective of commercializing this prosthesis”.