Scientists have long been looking for ways to help these people regain some quality of life. Now, a group of researchers has developed a prosthesis that, so far, it has improved memory by 50% to patients who have tried it. This is great news for those suffering from brain injuries or diseases that cause loss of the memory.
An electrical hippocampus
This futuristic form of brain stimulation "mimics" the way the brain creates memories. At the moment, it is a rather basic system and only uses an electrode that needs to be placed deep in the brain. It's hard to imagine its large-scale adoption in its current form, but its results are tremendous, and it could get even better results with a more sophisticated design.
The possibilities of such a device are astounding. Having an electrical "replacement" for the hippocampus would be a breakthrough.
How the hippocampus works
The hippocampus is the area of the brain vital for storage and memory creation. When an individual experiences something new, the hippocampus helps encode information and store it for later retrieval.
DARPA researchers tested their prosthesis on animals and some humans with epilepsy. Two different versions of the device they improved the memory of 24 people. The difference (however slight) in the results is due to the electrode placement area, which differs from individual to individual to adapt to his or her brain lesions.
The first version of the system was designed to replicate the brain's natural patterns. It took an average of the patterns present in the person's brain and then stimulated a similar pattern with electrical currents. The second version more closely replicated the functioning of the hippocampus. The researchers' idea is that, precisely because of the differences between patients, some results may be even better.
The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (I link the article here).