If a computer chip lived inside your brain and monitored your every memory, could it learn to remember for you?
The concept may sound like science fiction, but according to a new paper in the Journal of Neural Engineering, technology like this may be a reality before long. In a military-funded pilot study, scientists successfully tested what they call a "prosthetic memory" — a neural implant that can learn to recognize your brain activity when you correctly recall new information, and later replicate that activity with electrical signals to give your short-term memory a boost.
In a small test of 15 patients at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, this prosthetic memory system helped the patients improve their short-term memory by an average of 35 percent. According to lead study author Robert Hampson, a professor of physiology, pharmacology and neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, this degree of short-term memory improvement is "huge."
According to the study, patients' correct responses increased by an average of 37 percent during the 2-minute trial and 35 percent in the 75-minute trial when their brains were stimulated — figures that Hampson called "a substantial improvement."