Illumin Article Paper

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Connor Nevin 6/9/13 WRT 340 / Elisa Warford Illumin Article

Neuroprosthetics Ability to Create Man­made Memories
Neuroprosthetics, mechanical replacements for the human brain, are starting to become a possibility with the advancement of man’s understanding of the coding behind the human mind. By interpreting how the brain transmits signals to the human body from a mathematical, physical, and chemical standpoint, scientists are able to map these electronic signals and reproduce them with an artificial prosthesis. This technology is only in the developing stages and has very few finished products for human use. Scientists are finding the constraints behind studying such a complex part of the human body and are focusing their efforts on the hippocampus of the brain, which controls memories. Hopefully, further development of these neuroprosthetics will help those plagued with Alzheimer’s, stroke, or disrupted neuronal networks.

How Scientists Could Implant Memories
As scientists and engineers, we often found ourselves pushing the limits of nature by creating artificial life. Scientists first began this endeavor by developing technology to enhance and replace human’s biological processes. Ever since then man has feared losing his humanity to machinery. The medical term for these misunderstood devices is prosthetics; which are artificial mechanisms used to replace a missing or damaged human body part. Prosthetics are now breaching a new frontier, the brain, a part of human anatomy that is probably the most mysterious based on how little we truly know about its mechanics and function. Theodore Berger, a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist has been working with neuroprosthetics for many years now studying their effect on the development of long term memories located in the hippocampus of the brain as shown in

Figure 1.1. His research has shown that an electronic implant has the possibility to aid the user in forming short term memories into long term memories. To better understand the implications behind implementing a new type of prosthetics, it may be helpful to understand what types of neuroprosthetics has worked in the past so far.

Figure 1.1 [10] Image of Hippocampus location in the human brain.

History Behind Neuroprosthetics
The types of prosthetics that relate to this memory implant device the most would have to be those that use electronic signals to stimulate biological functions in the human body. Most of these prosthetics deal with specific senses of the human body. For example for auditory prosthetics, the first know neuroprosthetic was created in 1957 called the cochlear implant. This implant differed greatly from traditional hearing aids that simply

amplify sound for the human ear. “Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound” [2].

Figure 1.2 [2] Image of the human ear with a cochlear implant. This neuroprosthetic allows a one who is deaf to be able to process different sounds in their environment through means of nervous system making the deaf able to comprehend human speech. From explaining how this invention has enhanced human’s recognition of speech even when missing the sense of hearing, one can understand the progress to be made in neuroprosthetics. Advances in visual and motor neuroprosthetics have been made as well with the invention of artificial retinas for the blind and artificial body parts that

respond to the brain’s electrical signals. All of these inventions have yet to directly replace the functions of the brain, but with further study neuroprosthetics will soon surpass that boundary.

Discovery of New Frontier of Memory Reconstruction
Berger himself has been specifically developing silicon chips to allow animals’ brains to process information much like a neuron would do. “Restoring a form of