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Electrical Pulses and Neural Code Boost Memory Storage

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patient with electrodes in brain uses a touchscreen

A patient with electrodes implanted in her brain uses a touchscreen to identify familiar images in a series.

Credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have used electrical stimulation and neural patterns to improve the storage of new information in the brain, which could lead to "brain prostheses" to improve human memory.

The team enlisted 14 volunteers with microelectrodes in their brains to conduct a memory task similar to that involved in episodic memory, while recording patterns of electrical activity associated with memory storage in the hippocampus. They employed a multi-input, multi-output nonlinear mathematical model to decode those patterns and produce a code for correct memory storage, which could be used to reconstruct the neural code artificially. The volunteers performed a memory task as the researchers fed electrical impulses in an exact pattern tailored for each volunteer to the target area of the hippocampus.

The patients' memory performance improved by 35 percent, while the improvement in patients who had experienced greater memory loss was even higher, the team reports.

From IEEE Spectrum
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