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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Researchers have found higher levels of two very common herpes viruses in Alzheimer’s-affected brains and it appears they impact genes linked to Alzheimer’s.
Also, a different group of scientists say they’ve cracked the memory code.
It’s being called a prosthetic memory.
“We’re trying to bypass or support the normal memory and coding function in the brain,” said Dr. Robert Hampson, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The research was done with on a small group of epilepsy patients.
They agreed to have electrodes inserted into their brains, specifically into the hippocampus.
Then they played a game involving memory, as the electrodes recorded their brain cells firing off in a unique pattern of code.
“The content of memory is coded in a digital code and the hippocampus is the part of the brain that creates that digital code,” said Ted Berger, a neural engineer at the University of Southern California.
Berger has studied the formation of memories in the hippocampus for more than 20 years.
Using the patients’ unique codes, Berger designed a mathematical model that predicts how the codes fire off to form a successful memory.
“Together we can identify those neural codes and we can see them for the first time,” Berger said.
Using the electrodes, the researchers played each patient’s unique code back into their own brain.
The codes boosted the patient’s short and long-term memories by nearly forty percent.
“We were surprised at how successful we were,” Dr. Hampson said.
The hope is that one day a tiny pacemaker will help make new memories or strengthen the ones patients already have.
And with the Alzheimer’s virus link, researchers think it could lead to better treatments.
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