In the study of neurosciences it is a well known fact that long term potentiation plays a key role in the development of more efficient methods of synaptic interface which results in the creating of memory retention in learning. Current developments in neuroscience focus on this in the development of processes in which LTP could be directly stimulated in such a way using a brain-computer interface in order to both improve memory and create a means in which it could be recorded and implanted into a subject.
Potential to recreate the effects of Long Term Potentiation using a brain-computer interface resulting in an implanted, recorded or enhanced memory. Introduction The movie “The Final Cut” starring Robin Williams portrays a world wherein neuroscience has advanced to such a degree that it is able to produce methods of recording the audio and visual memories of a person through a neurochip imbedded within the brain.
While current developments in neuroscience have not come close to creating technology of such sophistication methods have been developed to create a proficient brain-computer interface that not only has the ability to record ghostly images of recently created memory but also has been able to create a means of translating the thought of movement into the physical reaction of a machine through electrode interfaces (Gutierrez 2008).
Most unique of all is the application of this development in neuroscience into the inception of outside stimuli into the human brain which has actually enabled people who suffer from blindness to “see” to an extent with grayish ghostly shapes or shades of light appearing to them for the first time in their lives (Santhanam 2006).
The technology is based on the fact that since signal transmission between neurons in the brain is based on low frequency electrical stimulations that are sent and received amongst the clustered neurons theoretically such signals could be analyzed if a conductive material was placed into the brain that would be able to receive the electrical transmissions as well and send the output to a machine that would be able to record the signal impulses and create a viable readout of what is being transmitted (Abraham 2006).
With this in mind there actually exists the possibility of recording and possibly implanting the effects of long term potentiation in the brain since the process of LTP itself functions through the synchronous stimulation of neurons through low yield electrical signals which could be recorded and replicated to a certain degree. Based on this what this paper will attempt to explore is what long term potentiation and how the different processes involved in recording and implanting signals into the brain could be translated into a way in which LTP could be intentionally brought about through a brain-computer interface.
What is Long Term Potentiation? Long term potentiation refers to a long lasting enhancement, usually up to weeks at a time, between two neurons that occurs as a result of them being stimulated at the same time which leads to the synapses involved to becoming increasingly sensitive during the process which some believe leads to the mechanism of learning in animals and humans (Xu 2007). It is due to this increased sensitivity in synaptic transmissions that actually improves the overall ability of the synapses involved to communicate with one another resulting in the apparent development of long term memory regarding certain events or actions.
Based on the work of Santiago Ramon y Cajal in 1894 neurotransmission theory states that memory itself develops not as a result of new neurons being created, since the average neuron count in a human brain peaks at 100 billion once the body has reached full maturity, but rather is the result of a strengthening of the apparent connections of the neurons involved that effectively improves the level of communication and helps to develop the process of learning and memory (Xu 2007).
Through the work of Terje Lomo in 1966 who discovered the existence of LTP it was discovered that certain levels of high frequency stimulation done through single pulse electrical shocks actually created a long lasting period of activity in certain synaptic cells (Bellizzi et al 2005)This shows that not only could the effects of LTP be replicated, albeit in a crude fashion, in a laboratory setting but it also meant that if methods of direct stimulation are present then maybe a method of precise transmission could be developed in order to either enhance a person’s ability to learn or enable the inception of an image or memory through outside stimulus. LTP and Recording If one were to take current studies of LTP into consideration it could be said that the process of learning involves the amount of LTP processes between neurons at a given time which would then result in the retention of events, actions and certain memories (Viskontas et al 2006). It can then be assumed that the level of LTP activity within a certain span of time directly translated into the degree of memory retention of a given event with more activity resulting in greater levels of retention.
Based on theories of education the level of mental stimulation in the brain is directly proportional to the level of interest in certain subjects with a perceptual decline in activity the more disenchanted a person is with a particular subject or method of learning (Viskontas et al 2006). Current attempts at recording memory using animals have actually been developed by the University of California wherein the subjects (cats) were made to a watch a series of videos and the resulting neural firings recorded and interpreted through computer firing resulting in grainy but almost similar images to what was watched (DEL et al 2008). The experiment actually showed that the degree of LTP activity in the brain actually influenced the clarity of the image produced with the subjects involved.
Since LTP activity can be determined by the rate of neural firings in the brain then it stands to reason that enhancing LTP activity through direct stimulation would in effect enhance the ability of an animal or human to retain a image. Brain Computer Interfaces and the Use of Electrodes to Stimulate LTP to Create, Record or Implant Memory Most fans of films would remember the move “Total Recall” the premise of which involves implanting false memories through the use of machines to either elicit a certain action or create a certain type of memory. While such methods of invasive neuroscience have yet to be invented recent experiments by Ted Berger of the University of California have proven that creating memory through direct stimulation of Neurons to create LTP using a brain-computer interface are possible (Oulasvirta 2004).
The fruit of his labor is actually a microchip that directly stimulates the hypothalamus whose purpose is to incite the LTP process and have the microchip act as the neuron system through which memory is implanted or created (Oulasvirta 2004). While experiments have yet to progress to such an extent that the process of memory implantation and creation through the chip are possible his recent experiments have shown that direct communication and stimulation of the surrounding neurons in the hypothalamus have actually created a means for the chip and certain portions of the brain to communicate with one another with the chip acting as a second neural network.
The reason behind chip’s creation was to enable people suffering from Alzheimers, hypothalamic damage or memory loss to be able to create new memories or have memories implanted by having the chip stimulate the process of LTP and have itself act as the neural network necessary for sending and receiving information. Currently the chip is able to communicate with certain neurons in the brain but what is being transmitted has yet to be accurately understood . Conclusion Based on the research done in this paper it can be said that there is a definite possibility that science may one day create a process of direct long term potentiation through which a brain-computer interface may one day be able to constantly stimulate the brain’s neural network and act as a repository for memories enabling humans to attribute memory loss to a hardware glitch instead of a biological process.
With LTP being directly linked to memory and with current methods being developed in the University of California to use it as a medium for enhancing human memory with machines the current trends in technology may one day lead to events similar to “The Final Cut” wherein the entirety of a person’s life may be viewed through a chip implanted in the brain. So far technology has yet to catch up but based on current trends it may just happen within the current century. List of References Abraham, W. (2006). Memory Maintenance. Current Directions in Psychological Science Wiley- Blackwell), 15(1), 5-8. Bellizzi, M. , Shao-Ming, L. , Masliah, E. , & Gelbard, H. (2005). Synaptic activity becomes excitotoxic in neurons exposed to elevated levels of platelet-activating factor. Journal of
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