US military has bright idea to use electrodes to boost soldiers’ memory

4 Nov 2015

If the US military has its way, a person’s ability to memorise sights and sounds will reach superhuman levels by using electrodes to stimulate brain activity.

The US military’s research division, DARPA, is involved in investigating some of the most advanced technologies with possible military uses, such as robotics and human enhancement, and now it is hoping memory improvement technology can help trauma suffered by its soldiers.

According to Nature, the US military is specifically looking to improve the memory loss, particularly long-term memory loss, that results from a significant head trauma.

In testing, DARPA has attempted to replicate the same signals experienced by the brain that occur when we try to remember something, which, with its new method, can bridge the gap of signals that leads to this memory loss.

During testing, the researchers asked 12 volunteers who suffer from epilepsy to examine a set of pictures and then, after a period of 90 seconds, asked them what they had just seen.

Developing a ‘neuroprosthetic’

When tracking the electron firing patterns between the two parts of the brain in the hippocampus – designated CA3 and CA1 – an algorithm the researchers developed could mimic a CA3 signal, even if the patient had suffered cell damage that inhibited their long-term memory.

However, the research is still in its earliest stages with one of the research team, biomedical engineer Dong Song, saying that the brain stimulation has been tested on one woman with epilepsy with plans to expand to other patients in the coming months.

Eventually, the team plans to create a non-invasive skull cap, referred to as a ‘neuroprosthetic’, which could trigger the brain stimulation in veterans of wars, but could also be extended to help stroke victims as well.

Soldiers in battle image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic