Interfacing digital devices and the human brain is a field in its infancy but one that is likely to burgeon in the near future.
As we unravel and reverse engineer the human brain it will become more and more possible to connect digital circuitry which can enhance brain function. It is possible in theory consciousness could be expanded or even ported into the digital domain.
Though brain stimulators have been in use for a number of years, the are relatively crude. They do help however in certain patients with Parkinson disease in controlling abnormal movements.
To date, however such devices have not been developed or tried to enhance higher cortical conscious functions.
Neurosurgeons oat Johns Hopkins have just announced they have successfully implanted the first ever brain pacemaker in a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. This devastating condition affects 20 million Americans and is highly age related beginning with subtle memory loss and rapidly progressing to a fatal state of severe cognitive impairment.
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s, patients have difficulty retaining new memories as part of their brains called the hippocampus begins to deteriorate.
The new pacemaker was implanted in an area of the brain called the fornix in an early Alzheimer patient. The fornix is an inflow tract to the hippocampus. The device produces a very rapidly alternating low voltage current cycling at 130 times per second. It is believed this current can enhance the function of the hioppocampus and lead to better memory retention. Such devices have proven effective in animal studies.
The implantation was done as a part of a multicenter clinical trial to see if the surgery benefits patients. Eventually 40 patients will receive the devei in the coming year at Hopkins and other US institutions.
If this technology takes off, we may soon enter a fascinating new realm of human consciousness augmentation.
Source: Johns Hopkins