Researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California have created a brain implant that has been proven to restore lost memory data and to improve recall of fresh information…in lab rats. Though it’ll be a long while before the smart device is ready for human use, this study equals potentially brilliant news for people with dementia and those who care for them.
In a series of experiments, as reported in The NYTimes last week, Sam A. Deadwyler (at Wake Forest) trained rats to remember which of two identical handles to pull to obtain drinking water. Without the memory implant, which is analogous to healthy brain tissue, the rats struggled; with it, they scored the sip.
“Though still a long way from being tested in humans, the implant demonstrates for the first time that a cognitive function can be improved with a device that mimics the firing patterns of neurons,” writes wonderful Benedict Carey, the regular medical and science reporter who makes the most complex information accessible to English majors.
Reading about this inspiring study, I imagine a better version of our world, in which my boyfriend’s mother, who suffers from early dementia, can remain in her beloved house, rather than relocating to an assisted living center–something she very much fears. Perhaps she can continue to feed her patio squirrels their peanuts and acorns, remember how to prepare her Banquet frozen dinners, dish her cat’s tuna, and work her elaborate remote control. Like all of us, she never forgets how much she likes hanging out at home. Here’s hoping the implant can, sooner rather than later, help people dwell years longer in familiar comfort.
Would you pursue advanced technology to help your elderly parent–or yourself, for that matter–live peacefully at home additional months or years?
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