With a rapidly aging population, experts have invested a significant amount of time and energy into better understanding the effects of aging on different areas of our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
One such effect that has caught the attention of researchers is the presence of ‘age-associated memory impairment’ or AAMI. The condition includes “a general slowing of mental functions such as processing, storing and recalling new information. It also included a general decline in the ability to perform tasks related to cognitive function such as memory, concentration, and focus.” Accepted as a regular occurrence among those who are aging, those affected may report difficulty remembering names, words, and numbers. In more serious cases memory loss may progress to debilitating conditions like dementia.
A new discovery in the scientific community may offer a new hope for those facing memory loss from aging, or even as a result of traumatic brain injuries. The exciting news hails out of the University of Southern California where researchers have developed an implant capable of improving the memory of their study participants by up to 30%!
The team presented their findings at a meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in Washington, revealing results from the first human trial. Gathering a study group of 20 volunteers, the ‘memory prosthesis’ was implanted in each of the participants. In the first part of the study brain activity data was collected for each of the participants, providing the researchers with a baseline. They would then trigger the implant to stimulate the areas of the brain that have been found to be active during memory tests. The implant would use electrical signals to mimic the activity that regularly occurs when the brain creates a memory.
The team found that the device was capable of improving short-term memory by approximately 15% and working memory by approximately 25%. While this may not seem like much, it is a great step forward in the search for a cure for conditions like dementia, which 1 in 10 people aged 65 years and older in the United States. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia, a frightening statistic!
The promising technology is still experimental, however, with further research and development, it may provide experts with a new option in the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and conditions like Alzheimer’s dementia.
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