I read in the New York Times last week that scientists have come up with a brain implant that restores lost memory function. It’s still a long way off but the article states “the implant demonstrates for the first time that a cognitive function can be improved with a device that mimics the firing patterns of neurons.” The hope is some day these implants could be used in humans. There are, however, a number of technical and theoretical obstacles. “For one the implant must first record a memory trace before playing it back or amplifying it; in patients with significant memory problems those signals maybe too weak.”
When I was learning about how one remembers things, I learned there are three parts to memory. 1) getting the information in 2) storing it 3) getting the information out. I can do the first two parts fine. The difficulty comes in retrieving the information. I’ve learned to always write things down if I want to remember them. My Android helps me here since I have an app that allows me to take notes.
Some folks with a brain injury can’t get information in so when they write it down and read it later, it’s like reading it for the very first time. I don’t know any examples of folks who can’t store information so I can’t say much about this. It does seem like these implants could help someone like me. To be honest, as nice as it would be to improve my memory, it probably affects other things as well and I’m not sure I would want to take the risk involved in this.
Plus memory implants would not correct my other challenges like spatial orientation or organizational skill. When I first read this article, I began thinking what it would be like to have my former, uninjured brain. Things would be like they were before. Shoot, I might even be the pastor of an inner city church or have a position where I could do more pastoral care! But no this is my life now. And it’s a good life.
Imagine that it is years ahead and these memory implants have come into being. Would you want them? What other challenges would you still have? See upper right for commenting instructions or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.