Replayed memories 'help Alzheimer's patients'
Alzheimer's sufferers could once again remember the faces of loved ones after scientists developed a way to boost memories.
In a groundbreaking pilot study, US researchers recorded memories as they were formed and then played them back into the brains of 10 patients. They found that it increased memory performance by up to 37pc.
The study was funded by US Department of Defence's military research department (Darpa), and focused on improving episodic memory, which is the most common type of memory loss in people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, strokes and head injuries.
Episodic memory is information that is new and useful for a short period of time, such as where a car is parked or keys are left.
"This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient's own brain cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, write in that code to make existing memory work better, an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss," said Dr Robert Hampson, professor of physiology/pharmacology and neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Health, North Carolina. "In the future, we hope to be able to help people hold on to specific memories, such as where they live or what their grandkids look like, when their overall memory begins to fail."
Dr James Pickett, the head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "With no new drug for dementia in the past 15 years, and one person developing the condition every three minutes, it's more urgent than ever to find new ways to treat the condition. These kind of 'first-in-human' studies are important stepping stones to understanding how we make memories."
The research was published in the 'Journal of Neural Engineering'.