The Hippocampus: Key to the Future of Human Memory

As I was perusing “The Scientific American BRAVE NEW BRAIN”  by Judith Horstman  I came across a page titled “An Artificial Hippocampus.”  This caused me to speculate about an artificial hippocampus.  Actually each of us has two hippocampi, as there is one hippocampus in each hemisphere.  The importance of these hippocampi was noticed as the result of surgery done on an epileptic patient to protect him from the violent seizures he was having.  The surgery removed most of both his hippocampi, which prevented him from storing any new memories.

I have my own personal story regarding defective hippocampi.  It occurred during the later stage of my Mom’s dementia.  I would visit her and fortunately she remembered me and was glad to see me.  However, if an attendant took her to the bathroom when she returned she acted as if I had just arrived.  Clearly both her hippocampi were shot.

As the hippocampus is required for the storage of new memories, it clearly is key to he future of human memory.  Effectively functioning artificial hippocampi would provide the vehicle for storing new memories, for new learning.

We have yet to develop an artificial hippocampus that works.  I believe preliminary work is being done with animals.  Researchers are recording from the hippocampi of these animals as they learn new tasks.  Then they will try to transfer these recordings to the hippocampi of new naive animals who have not learned the task to see if they can use these recordings to perform these new tasks.  I don’t know if any successful trials have been run.  But this is exactly the type of research that needs to be done before an artificial hippocampus can be developed.  I believe that the course of this research will necessarily take a long time.

If an artificial hippocampus is developed, we know that this is a necessary structure for the storage of new memories.  However, we cannot be sure that the hippocampus alone is a sufficient solution.  There may be more to the storage of new memories of which we are unaware.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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