Untapping the Secrets of Memory

Written by Mike Awada on . Posted in Science

“Memory is the ability of an organism to store, retain, and recall information and experiences.”

For as long as I can remember, human-beings have struggled with various memory issues. Former President Ronald Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s, and it was believed that it may have even affected him during the last years he was in office. Ralph Waldo Emerson suffered from dementia and forgot his name late in life. Similarly, civil rights hero Rosa Parks had memory issues in her later years. Parks’ family said she was abused by attorneys who took advantage of her mental state, convincing her to sue popular hip-hop group Outkast for using her name in a popular song.

The hit 2000 film Memento chronicled the story of a man with Anterograde Amnesia, or the loss of the ability to create new memories after an amnesia-inducing event. Similarly, Retrograde Amnesia is the loss of all memory prior to a particular traumatic event.

It’s a scary thought to not be able to tap into your memory vault, create new memories, or remember to do normal, everyday tasks. With advancing technology, it has been the dope that doctors will someday be able to penetrate to the root of this issue and advance towards a cure.

It was determined this week, that deep electrical stimulation of a particular region of the brain during learning created new neurons and increased information retention.

The benefit of using this stimulation technique only during the learning phase suggests that patients need not undergo continuous treatment to boost their memory, but only when they are trying to learn important information. The goal is to use these findings to create neuroprosthetic devices that can switch on during specific stages of information processing or daily tasks.

Testing was conducted strictly on epilepsy patients. It is not yet certain if their findings can be generalized to those with other neurologic disorders, but researchers did observe a finding that “suggests that improvement could occur in patients with other memory impairments (eg, Alzheimer’s).”

The key takeaway from this story is that we are finally beginning to understand how our complicated mind works. Humanity has established an impressive catalog of medicine and techniques for various ailments. The human brain, weighing only three pounds, has always been something that we couldn’t seem to grasp the complexity of.

It seems we have reached the threshold of finding the root of creating and maintaining memories. Hopefully this is the first major step towards discovering an affordable option for the masses that can address the issue of memory loss or dilution, and start getting people their lives back.


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