For many years, people have turned to electric shock therapy for a variety of ailments—most notably for the treatment of mental illnesses. Now, a study shows that targeted electric shocks to the brain—through an implant—could eventually bring relief to those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia by improving their memories. Based on this technology, researchers are also developing a prosthesis that would enhance your brain’s natural abilities.
Memory Boosting Implants
Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) implanted what they call a “memory prosthesis” in 20 volunteers—the first human trial of its kind. These participants had previously had electrodes implanted in their brains for epileptic treatment, so the memory system did not necessitate an additional surgery. Through the electrodes, the implant delivers small electric shocks to part of the brain most involved in memory and learning—the hippocampus. The shocks are devised to mimic the pattern of healthy brain activity and the way humans process memories.
Doctors have successfully provided the first patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) with a brain implant system that allows her to communicate via her thoughts. Prior to this surgery, Hanneke de Bruijne of the Netherlands, who is paralyzed and on a ventilator, had been what medical professionals refer to as “locked in.” That is, she was unable to communicate with the outside world due to the physical paralysis that gradually overtook her entire body.