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Exciting discovery could help humans recover from brain injury

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
An implantable device in the front of the brain restores memory in monkeys.

Wake Forrest researchers have used a prosthetic device to help primates regain memory. The exciting discovery is expected to someday help humans who have impaired decision making ability from brain injury.

For their experiment, the researchers first taught moneys to recognize and match up images on a computer screen until they mastered it with 70 to 75% accuracy the first time.

Then the researchers tracked how the monkeys did it by measuring neural impulses in their brain with the prosthetic device developed by researchers at the University of Southern California, which uses a mathematical model.

In the next phase of the study researchers gave the monkeys cocaine to simulate brain injury. Cognitive function declined by 13% when the test was repeated.

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The multi-input multi-output nonlinear (MIMO) mathematical model detected when the primates were about to choose a wrong answer during the drug induced sessions and played back the previously recorded correct neural pattern.

“The prosthetic device is like ‘flipping a switch’ to turn on a decision in real time,” said Sam Deadwyler, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist, and senior author of the study, in a press release.
Even when cocaine was still present and active, the device improved the monkey’s thinking ability to 10% above normal.

Robert E. Hampson, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist, and lead author of the study .said “The basis for why the MIMO prosthesis was effective in improving performance was because we specifically programmed the model to recognize neural patterns that occurred when the animals correctly performed the behavioral task in real time, which is a unique feature of this particular device,”

The neuroprosthesis is implanted in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain, which is responsible for decision making. The science fiction like device then acts as a memory stimulator. Based on the findings, Hampson believes development of similar implantable device could someday help humans recover from brain injury.

Wake Forest News
September 13, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia commons