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Surprising Science

The On-Off Memory Switch

U.S. scientists say they have developed an on-off memory switch that helped laboratory rats remember a behavior that they had forgotten. The research could benefit those with brain injuries.

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists have created a device that successfully manipulates mice brains by controlling what they can remember. “The brain prosthesis marks the first time that researchers have been able to duplicate the brain’s learning process, restoring memories that test rats were drugged to forget, and could offer hope for people with dementia. ‘Flip the switch on, and the rats remember. Flip it off, and the rats forget,’ said Theodore Berger of the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Biomedical Engineering.”

What’s the Big Idea?

What will it take for this research to benefit humans? It is a long road, to be sure, but the ability to augment long-term memory could aid sufferers of memory loss due to dementia, stroke or brain injury. “In normal rats, ‘the device could actually strengthen the memory being generated internally in the brain and enhance the memory capability,’ said the study published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. The team hopes to test the device in monkeys next, in the hope it could one day help people who suffer from memory loss due to dementia, stroke or brain injury.”


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