This one’s for the books: in a jaw-dropping study, a team just turned the human brain from a read-only memory device to a rewritable one.
“What?” you might ask. Of course the brain is rewritable. It’s constantly using electrical and chemical signals to encode our thoughts and memories.
But that’s biology. When it comes to current neurotechnologies, humans haven’t been able to directly encode memories into our own brains. So far, projects like the BRAIN Initiative or connectomics have only helped us roughly glimpse the complicated neural code buzzing in our heads—that is, to “read” the brain.
No more. In this DARPA-funded study, researchers extracted memory-encoding electrical signals directly from a group of human volunteers while they performed a memory task. When they injected the signals back during recall, it boosted the volunteers’ performance by roughly 37 percent—a shockingly large effect. The results were published this month in the Journal of Neural Engineering… Continue reading.
Scientists have developed a way to turn memories on and off – literally with the flip of a switch.
Using an electronic system that duplicates the neural signals associated with memory, they managed to replicate the brain function in rats associated with long-term learned behavior, even when the rats had been drugged to forget.
“Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget,” said Theodore Berger of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, who holds the David Packard Chair in Engineering and is director of the USC Center for Neural Engineering.
Berger is the lead author of “A Cortical Neural Prosthesis for Restoring and Enhancing Memory,” which was published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. His team worked with scientists from Wake Forest University in the study, building on recent advances in our understanding of the brain area known as the hippocampus and its role in learning.