Biomedical engineers analyze—and duplicate—the neural mechanism of learning in rats [link]

Restor­ing Me­mory, Re­pairing Da­m­aged Brains (ar­ti­cle @ PR Newswire)

Us­ing an elec­tronic sys­tem that du­pli­cates the neu­ral sig­nals as­so­ci­ated with mem­ory, they man­aged to repli­cate the brain func­tion in rats as­so­ci­ated with long-term learned be­hav­ior, even when the rats had been drugged to for­get.

This se­ries of ex­per­i­ments, as de­scribed, sounds very well-con­structed and thor­ough. The sci­en­tists first recorded spe­cific ac­tivity in the hip­pocam­pus, where short-term mem­ory be­comes long-term mem­ory. They then used drugs to in­hibit that ac­tivity, pre­vent­ing the for­ma­tion of and ac­cess to long-term mem­ory. Us­ing the in­for­ma­tion they had gath­ered about the hip­pocam­pus ac­tivity, they con­structed an ar­tifi­cial re­place­ment and im­planted it into the rats’ brains. This suc­cess­fully re­stored the rats’ abil­ity to store and use long-term mem­ory. Fur­ther, they im­planted the de­vice into rats with­out sup­pressed hip­pocam­pal ac­tivity, and demon­strated in­creased mem­ory abil­ities in those sub­jects.

“Th­ese in­te­grated ex­per­i­men­tal mod­el­ing stud­ies show for the first time that with suffi­cient in­for­ma­tion about the neu­ral cod­ing of mem­o­ries, a neu­ral pros­the­sis ca­pa­ble of real-time iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and ma­nipu­la­tion of the en­cod­ing pro­cess can re­store and even en­hance cog­ni­tive mnemonic pro­cesses,” says the pa­per.

It’s a truly im­pres­sive re­sult.