In the next few months, highly secretive US military researchers say they will unveil new advances toward developing a brain implant that could one day restore a wounded soldier's memory.Even if this is successful, though, there are serious concerns about how the ability to manipulate the brain might be used. Some of those concerns are addressed in the article. The whole thing reminds me of the movie Total Recall, but if people who have suffered brain trauma or Alzheimers can get their mind back it's worth doing.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is forging ahead with a four-year plan to build a sophisticated memory stimulator, as part of President Barack Obama's $100 million initiative to better understand the human brain. The science has never been done before, and raises ethical questions about whether the human mind should be manipulated in the name of staving off war injuries or managing the aging brain.
Some say those who could benefit include the five million Americans with Alzheimer's disease and the nearly 300,000 US military men and women who have sustained traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"If you have been injured in the line of duty and you can't remember your family, we want to be able to restore those kinds of functions," DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez said this week at a conference in the US capital convened by the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.
"We think that we can develop neuroprosthetic devices that can directly interface with the hippocampus, and can restore the first type of memories we are looking at, the declarative memories," he said.
Declarative memories are recollections of people, events, facts and figures, and no research has ever shown they can be put back once they are lost.
What researchers have been able to do so far is help reduce tremors in people with Parkinson's disease, cut back on seizures among epileptics and even boost memory in some Alzheimer's patients through a process called deep brain stimulation.
Those devices were inspired by cardiac pacemakers, and pulse electricity into the brain much like a steady drum beat, but they don't work for everyone.
According to Hampson, to restore a human's specific memory, scientists would have to know the precise pattern for that memory. Instead, scientists in the field think they could improve a person's memory by simply helping the brain work more like it used to before the injury.
"The idea is to restore a function back to normal or near normal of the memory processing areas of the brain so that the person can access their formed memories, and so that they can form new memories as needed," Hampson said.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Wouldn't this be amazing, provided the technology isn't used for nefarious purposes:
at 10:28 AM